Union Pacific to Transfer Commuter Service to Metra

Operation of Union Pacific West, Northwest and North lines will be handed over to Metra by early 2024. Photo by Justin Franz. 

Union Pacific to Transfer Commuter Service to Metra

By Justin Franz 

Union Pacific announced Thursday that the freight railroad would transfer its commuter rail operation to Metra in early 2024. As part of the transition, Metra will take over services including train crew, mechanical, car cleaning, rolling stock maintenance, ticket sales and some engineering services. 

Commuter service in Chicago is unique in that Metra operates some routes and others are operated by freight railroads under contract for Metra. For example, UP operates the Union Pacific West (to Elburn, Ill.), Northwest (to McHenry and Harvard, Ill.) and North (to Kenosha, Wis) lines and BNSF Railway operates the BNSF Line to Aurora, Ill. While Metra owns the equipment, the UP and BNSF logos sometimes appear on signage and timetables. UP has operated its three lines since 1995 when it took over the Chicago & North Western. The freight railroad is paid $100 million annually to operate the commuter services. 

UP’s commuter rail employees will transition to Metra employment in the third quarter of 2023. Several management employees have already gone to Metra. UP will continue to maintain the track and dispatch trains on the three impacted routes. 

“We greatly appreciate Metra’s collaboration in continuing to provide excellent and safe service to commuters during this transition,” said Eric Gehringer, UP’s executive vice president of operations. “Thank you to our employees for your outstanding dedication and teamwork to provide uninterrupted commuter experience.”

The transfer of UP’s commuter operations to Metra will cap off a contentious period between the two railroads. In 2019, UP sued Metra trying to get out of its obligation to provide commuter service. And in 2020, Metra said it was losing millions of dollars a month because UP was not having conductors collect fares

This article was posted on: March 31, 2023