CHICAGO — A U.S. appeals court has ruled Union Pacific does not have a common-carrier obligation to continue operating commuter trains for Metra, likely hastening the transition of operations on three commuter lines from UP to Metra operation.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled on Wednesday that “Union Pacific is not bound by any contractual promise to keep providing rail services to Metra for the indefinite future,” the suburban Daily Herald newspaper reports.
Union Pacific announced earlier this year that the process of transitioning service on Metra’s UP West, Northwest, and North lines had begun, with Metra saying the process had begun while negotiations on some areas continued [see “Union Pacific announces start of transition …,” Trains News Wire, March 30, 2023]. And Metra CEO/Executive Director Jim Derwinski had previously told Trains that some managers involved in the service had already moved from UP to Metra.
The court case dates to 2019 [see “UP sues Metra …,” News Wire, Dec. 21, 2019]. Throughout the dispute, the two sides have stressed that service would continue uninterrupted while the issue was resolved.
Metra spokesman Michael Gillis told the Daily Herald on Thursday that the commuter agency “hoped to begin taking over some operations by the end of the year.” Metra had no specific comments on the court ruling or a possible appeal. UP spokeswoman Kristen South said the railroad is “pleased with the court’s decision, and we continue to work with Metra to execute a smooth transfer of services.”
UP said previously that plans for the transfer will see train crews, mechanical, cleaning, ticket sales, rolling stock maintenance, and some engineering services move to Metra, while UP will continue to maintain and dispatch the three routes. According to May 2023 figures, the UP Northwest, North, and West lines are the second, third, and fifth most-used lines in the Metra system, accounting for just over 1 million riders that month.