By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. passenger railroad Amtrak said it will resume normal operations Friday as it works to quickly restore canceled trains after a freight rail labor deal was announced, averting a rail shutdown.
Amtrak had announced on Wednesday that it would temporarily cancel all of its long-distance trains starting on Thursday – along with some state-supported trains – because of a potential freight rail work stoppage that could start the following day.
Amtrak workers were not involved in the labor dispute, but the railroad operates almost all of its 21,000 route miles (33,800 km) 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 had 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.
Major U.S. railroads and unions secured a tentative deal after 20 hours of intense talks brokered by President Joe Biden’s administration to avert a rail shutdown that could have hit food and fuel supplies across the country and beyond and caused far-reaching transportation woes.
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. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Amtrak had about 4.4 million passengers annually on long-distance trains.
Late Wednesday, Amtrak said it would also cancel some state-supported train services starting Thursday, including the Capitol Corridor, Amtrak Cascades, Heartland Flyer, Illinois, Michigan and Virginia services, as well as San Joaquins and part of the Pacific Surfliner and Springfield services.
Some commuter train systems such as Chicago’s Metra had also said they could have been forced to begin cutting service on Thursday.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Jason Neely, Will Dunham and Jonathan Oatis)