RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The threat of a potential strike is forcing Amtrak to cancel some long-distance trips.
The strike could come at the end of this week, after more than a year of negotiating pay and working conditions with freight railroads and unions representing their workers.
Sean Jeans-Gail with the Rail Passengers Association said some unions came to an agreement but others still want more.
“More certainty in scheduling, the ability to go see a doctor and not get penalized or even fired,” he said “We’re now in a cooling-off period where a tentative solution was proposed.”
Though a strike is not certain and disruptions to passenger services are not clear, Jeans-Gail said Amtrak has already canceled some long-distance trips across the country.
“They’ve already started to do a phased suspension of service for some of their longer-distance trains that take multiple days to get across the U.S.,” he said. “They don’t want any stranded passengers, equipment or workers.”
Minor schedule changes are expected on a few northeast regional trains serving destinations from Virginia to Boston.
“All passengers will be severely impacted if an agreement is not reached by Friday at midnight,” he said.
Jeans-Gail added that Virginia could start seeing a suspension of shorter-distance services by Thursday.
More than 110,000 people boarded state-sponsored Amtrak routes in July, according to the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority. That’s 20% higher than pre-pandemic levels and a 30% increase since June.
The Authority told 8News Tuesday that they’re working closely with Amtrak and their freight railroad partners for the latest information.
“VPRA is working closely with Amtrak and our freight railroad partners to ensure passengers on our state-supported trains have the most up-to-date information available,” said DJ Stadtler, executive director of the authority. “We understand our passengers rely on rail service to travel around the Commonwealth, and we look forward to a resolution.”
“Chlorine that we use for our drinking water, a lot of it comes by train and so that’s going to be the real driver of these negotiations and the intervention from the political side,” Jeans-Gail said.
8News reached out to Amtrak multiple times on Tuesday for more information, but they have not responded to requests.