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A coalition of labor and passenger-rail groups has written to the Surface Transportation Board (STB) in support of Metra's request for an injunction to require Union Pacific Railroad to continue operating commuter-rail service on three Chicago-area rail lines.
Filed Aug. 18, the coalition's statement notes that the STB determined earlier this month it would not rule on Metra's injunction request, at least until a U.S. District Court rules in a legal case between the two railroads. Metra granted UP's request to hold the injunction proceeding in abeyance.
The coalition also notes that the court may not grant an injunction promptly — something the STB acknowledged in its abeyance order — and as a result there's an immediate need for a preliminary injunction to prevent UP from ceasing service on the lines known as UP North, UP Northwest and UP West.
"[We] believe it is in the public interest to ensure that Chicagoland commuters have continued, uninterrupted access to the public transportation services provided by UP on the UP lines," the coalition's filing states.
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 about a year, but remain far apart and are now engaged in a lawsuit over the matter.
Earlier this summer, UP advised Metra it 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.
The coalition represents the interests of the employees affected by the potential termination of service on the UP lines, as well as organizations that represent the interests of passengers. Coalition members are the Transportation Communications Union (TCU), Brotherhood of Railway Carmen Division-TCU, International Association of Machinists District Lodge 19, the Rail Passengers Association and Transportation For America.
"We believe that the general public as well as [UP] employees should be held harmless while UP and Metra continue to negotiate over the renewal or termination of the PSA and/or the transfer of the operations of the UP lines to Metra," the coalition wrote to the STB.