Amtrak said it is canceling all long-distance trips starting on Thursday amid a looming railway strike that could disrupt the U.S. economy, resulting in lost productivity of $2 billion a day.
The potential work stoppage stems from a labor dispute between railroad companies and their unionized workforces. If the two sides aren’t able to come to an agreement this week, the strike could begin Friday.
A Labor Department spokesperson told CBS News on Wednesday evening that dinner had been ordered and the talks in Washington among federal officials, railroad executives and railroad worker union leaders are ongoing.
President Biden had been receiving updates and tracking the talks closely throughout the day, including after returning to the White House from Detroit on Wednesday evening.
While Amtrak is not involved in the ongoing negotiations between the two sides, a work stoppage would impact its passenger service because almost all of its routes outside the Northeast corridor operate on tracks maintained and dispatched by freight railroads. The announcement comes after the passenger train service canceled three long-distance routes earlier this week in anticipation of the strike.
Suspending all long-distance routes is “necessary to ensure trains can reach their terminals before freight railroad service interruption if a resolution in negotiations is not reached,” Amtrak said in a statement to CBS News.
It added, “Amtrak will only operate trains this week that we can ensure will have enough time to reach their final destinations by 12:01 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 16.”
Most train travel on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor — such as the Acela train that runs between Boston and Washington, D.C. — won’t be impacted by the cancellations, Amtrak said. The Acela will continue to run a full schedule.
Amtrak said it’s reaching out to customers with tickets on the canceled routes, and will allow them to change their reservation or to receive a full refund without cancellation fees. If a customer changes to another travel date, Amtrak said it will waive any difference in fares for departures through October 31.
Here are suspended routes with the dates that the trains will suspend passenger service:
As of Tuesday, Sept. 13:
- Southwest Chief
- Empire Builder
- California Zephyr
- Train #421 portion of the Texas Eagle (Los Angeles-San Antonio)
Wednesday, Sept. 14:
- City of New Orleans
- Coast Starlight
- Lake Shore Limited
- Silver Star
- Sunset Limited
- Texas Eagle
Thursday, Sept. 15:
- Auto Train
- Capitol Limited
- Palmetto (south of Washington)
Ed O’Keefe contributed to this report.