Impact of possible railroad labor unions strike on MARC, VRE, Amtrak riders

Some of the nation’s largest labor unions for railroad workers and the largest railroad companies are not seeing eye to eye on a new contract. Here’s how it could affect your D.C.-area commute.

Failure to strike a deal could result in some riders, who take MARC and Virginia Railway Express trains to and from work, looking for other plans on Friday.

For MARC, it uses tracks owned by CSX, one of the companies in contract negotiations. On Monday, MARC said it had been notified that no deal with workers would mean it would have to park many of its trains.

“Since CSX owns and maintains the Camden and Brunswick lines, in addition to dispatching MARC trains, any labor strike would result in the immediate suspension of all MARC Camden and Brunswick Line service until a resolution is reached,” MARC said in a statement.

MARC said riders on those two lines should start planning to get to where they need to go without using its trains. Some Maryland Transit Administration commuter buses are prepared to honor VRE tickets on Friday, if the strike happens. Also tickets would be accepted on MARC’s Penn line which would continue to run. Also honoring those tickets would be Metro and Ride On buses in Montgomery County.

In Virginia, VRE depends on CSX- and Norfolk Southern-owned tracks to operate. Since both companies face the risk of a strike, the rail line is warning its passengers to be ready to make additional plans.

“Any labor strike would result in the immediate suspension of all VRE train service until a resolution is reached. We, of course, hold out hope for a resolution — by all concerned — before the Friday deadline,” VRE said in an alert to passengers.

As for Amtrak, it said the busiest trains in the region, along the Northeast Corridor, between D.C. and Boston would not be affected. Amtrak owns most of the tracks it uses in that region. South of D.C., however, the rail line did say “only a small number” Northeast Regional departures would be affected.

Amtrak did make the call to call off some long-distance routes.

“While we are hopeful that parties will reach a resolution, Amtrak has now begun phased adjustments to our service in preparation for a possible freight rail service interruption later this week,” Amtrak said in a statement.

Starting on Tuesday, Amtrak service will be suspended for trains on the Southwest Chief, Empire Builder, California Zephyr lines. Also, the Train #421, which is the Los Angeles-San Antonio portion of the Texas Eagle, will be canceled.

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Mike Murillo

Mike Murillo is a reporter and anchor at WTOP. Before joining WTOP in 2013, he worked in radio in Orlando, New York City and Philadelphia.

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