Amtrak working to restore canceled trips after railroad strike averted with freight deal

Zach Wichter

Amtrak is hustling to get its trains back on track after preemptively canceling all long-distance passenger service for Thursday due to a potential freight rail strike narrowly averted by a tentative union agreement.

"Amtrak is working to quickly restore canceled trains and reaching out to impacted customers to accommodate on first available departures," Amtrak said in a statement to USA TODAY.

Even though the Amtrak was't involved with the freight negotiations, the operator had been following along closely, and canceled trips to avoid potential disruptions. 

"Our rail system is integral to our supply chain, and a disruption would have had catastrophic impacts on industries, travelers and families across the country," Labor Secretary Marty Walsh said in a tweet after the freight deal was reached.

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What am I entitled to if my train was canceled?

The railroad is offering full refunds for any canceled trains, or will move the reservation to another travel date without charging any fare differences, through Oct. 31. 

What routes are affected?

Amtrak's cancellations impacted all long-distance trains beginning Thursday, including the Auto Train between Virginia and Florida, and all its other interstate routes.

Workers service the tracks at the Metra/BNSF railroad yard outside of downtown on September 13, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois.

Why would a freight railroad strike affect passenger trains?

Although Amtrak operates services across the country, it actually owns very few of the tracks it uses. Many of its trains outside the Northeast Corridor between Boston and Washington use lines that are controlled by freight railroads. So, a strike by workers on those railroads could affect Amtrak's ability to operate in their territory.

Freight rail workers have been negotiating a contract for three years. In announcing the tentative union agreement early Thursday, President Joe Biden said it would provide rail workers "better pay, improved working conditions, and peace of mind around their health care costs: all hard-earned."

Contributing: Eve Chen, Joey Garrison