As many readers know, Union Pacific operates three Metra lines emanating from Chicago – UP North, UP Northwest, and UP West. For years, Union Pacific has been operating Metra trains on these lines with its own crews based on a contract with Metra callled a purchase-of-service agreement, or PSA. In addition, Union Pacific owns the tracks, most of the stations, yards and parking lots. Union Pacific announced recently that they want to turn the operation of the Metra trains on these lines to Metra crews. With this announcement, the gloves have come off.
This week, Metra filed a request to the Surface Transportation Board (STB) for a preliminary injuction to prevent UP from moving forward with it’s plans. Metra also requested that the STB rule on the question of whether UP has a legal obligation to provide commuter service. UP says that it does not have such an obligation, but Metra cried foul at this response. Needless to say, the resolution of this issue is critical to maintaining good service over these lines.
Metra CEO & Executive Director Jim Derwinski said “Metra and Union Pacific have had a longstanding, cooperative working relationship, and our intention is to maintain this relationship going forward. These filings are an effort by Metra to maintain the status quo on the UP North, Northwest and West lines while at the same time attempting to resolve critical points of disagreement between us.”
Having Metra take over the service would open a can of complex issues that deal with real estate, maintenance, finances and labor unions. Negotiations have been under way for a new agreement just short of a year, but little progress has been made.
Late last year, UP approached a federal court to resolve the issue, a case which is pending, but Metra wants to put the decision in the hands of the STB because it’s a federal regulatory body that, according to Metra, has the most expertise on the matter.
The outcome of this dispute remains to be seen, but both sides have entered the ring and are adamant about their positions.
More information is online.