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Amtrak to cancel all long-distance trains for now, including Empire Builder

Amtrak workers are not involved in the labor dispute, but the railroad operates almost all of its 21,000 route miles outside the U.S. Northeast Corridor on track owned, maintained and dispatched by freight railroads.

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Amtrak passengers watch as the westbound train pulls into the Fargo station in September 2019.
Forum News Service file photo
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DETROIT -- U.S. passenger railroad Amtrak said it will temporarily cancel all of its long-distance trains starting on Thursday because of a potential freight rail work stoppage that could start the following day.

Amtrak workers are not involved in the labor dispute, but the railroad operates almost all of its 21,000 route miles outside the U.S. Northeast Corridor on track owned, maintained and dispatched by freight railroads.

Railroads including Union Pacific, Berkshire Hathaway's BNSF and Norfolk Southern have until a minute after midnight on Friday to reach tentative deals with three holdout unions representing about 60,000 workers before a work stoppage affecting freight and Amtrak could begin.

Amtrak made its announcement on Wednesday after earlier in the week deciding to cancel 10 long-distance trains throughout the United States ahead of the Friday deadline.

Not only does the Northern Pacific Passenger Depot in Detroit Lakes get used by trains, it is also used as an Amtrak stop. Mattie Hjelseth/Tribune
Not only does the Northern Pacific Passenger Depot in Detroit Lakes get used by trains, it is also used as an Amtrak stop. Mattie Hjelseth/Tribune

On Monday, Amtrak said it would begin suspending service on four routes Tuesday including the Southwest Chief route from Chicago to Los Angeles, Empire Builder route from Chicago to Seattle, California Zephyr route from Chicago to San Francisco, and the Los Angeles to San Antonio portion of the Texas Eagle route.

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The Empire Builder route includes stops in North Dakota in Williston, Minot and Fargo and in Detroit Lakes and the Twin Cities in Minnesota.

Some commuter train systems such as Chicago's Metra have also said they will be forced to begin cutting service on Thursday. Minnesota's Northstar Commuter Rail, operated under contract by BNSF, that serves the Minneapolis area, said its service could be suspended as early as Friday.

The latest trains to be canceled starting on Thursday are: the Auto Train (Washington to Sanford, Florida), Capitol Limited (Washington to Pittsburgh), Cardinal (Washington to Chicago) and the Palmetto (south of Washington to Savannah, Georgia).

Amtrak also suspended the City of New Orleans that provides service to Chicago, Coast Starlight (Seattle to Los Angeles), Crescent (New York to Orleans), Lake Shore Limited (New York to Chicago), Silver Star (New York to Miami), Sunset Limited (New Orleans to Los Angeles) and the Texas Eagle (Chicago to Los Angeles).

Moody's said Amtrak's decision to suspend long-distance trains is "credit negative, as it will impact customer retention and revenue, resulting in higher operating losses. However, as the company relies on federal funding and operating losses were anticipated, the suspension will have a limited credit impact on Amtrak unless it persists."

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This story was written by one of our partner news agencies. Forum Communications Company uses content from agencies such as Reuters, Kaiser Health News, Tribune News Service and others to provide a wider range of news to our readers. Learn more about the news services FCC uses here.

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