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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

STB defers decision in Metra-UP dispute over commuter-rail service


The Surface Transportation Board (STB) last week declined to intervene in an ongoing dispute between Metra and Union Pacific Railroad over three Chicago-area commuter-rail lines that UP operates. 

Metra late last month asked the STB to issue a preliminary injunction to prevent UP from taking steps that the Chicago commuter railroad says would "degrade or halt" service on the three Metra lines operated by UP.

In a separate filing, the Chicago commuter railroad also asked the STB to determine whether UP has a legal obligation to provide commuter service. UP maintains that it has no such obligation, but Metra "strongly disagrees," Metra officials said in a press release last month. 

UP owns the three lines in the Metra system, including rights of way, track, yards and most stations and parking lots. Historically, UP has operated them with its own crews under a purchase-of-service agreement (PSA) with Metra. UP now wants to turn over operation of the commuter service to Metra. The two parties have been negotiating a new agreement for nearly a year, but remain far apart and are now engaged in a lawsuit over the matter.

Earlier this summer, UP advised Metra that the Class I would begin to phase out various services provided under the PSA on July 31. Metra asked the STB to issue a declaratory order that UP has a "continuing common carrier obligation" to provide commuter-rail service.

UP asked the STB to hold the proceeding in abeyance pending a decision on Metra's motion to dismiss or stay a related case that UP filed in December 2019 in federal district court. UP stated that the court case involves the same issues that Metra raised in the court case.

The STB ruled the proceeding will be held in abeyance. It also directed Metra and UP to notify the board of any decision in the court case.

The full STB ruling can be read here.


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