Work to Transfer UP Commuter Ops to Metra Continues

The operation of three commuter lines from Union Pacific to Metra was supposed to be completed by the beginning of this year. Photo by Justin Franz. 

Work to Transfer UP Commuter Ops to Metra Continues

By Railfan & Railroad Staff

Months after the operation of Union Pacific’s three commuter lines in the Chicago area were supposed to be transferred to Metra, the freight railroad is still running passenger trains.

Last year, it was announced that Metra would take over services on the three lines including train crew, mechanical, car cleaning, rolling stock maintenance, ticket sales and some engineering duties. The tracks themselves, however, would still be owned by UP. 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. 

While officials had hoped the deal would be done by early this year, talks are ongoing. A Metra spokesperson tells Railfan & Railroad, that about 370 UP mechanical and storehouse employees came to Metra in early June and station personnel were expected to come in the fall. Frontline transportation employees would join in November. Negotiations with engineering and financial employees were ongoing as this issue went to press. 

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: June 28, 2024