What Amtrak travelers need to know about the looming freight rail strike

Negotiations are ongoing between unions and railroad companies. If they don’t come to an agreement, the first national rail strike in 30 years could start early Friday.

While Amtrak is not involved in the negotiations, service has already been adjusted on track that could be affected by the dispute. All long-distance Amtrak trains are canceled starting on Thursday, September 15.

Here’s what Amtrak passengers need to know about the situation:

Is Amtrak striking?

No. “The negotiations do not involve Amtrak or the Amtrak workforce,” Amtrak said in a statement earlier this week.

So why is Amtrak canceling service?

Amtrak is preemptively suspending some service because its track will be affected if freight rail workers go on strike.

“Amtrak operates almost all of our 21,000 route miles outside the Northeast Corridor (NEC) on track owned, maintained, and dispatched by freight railroads,” said Marc Magliari, an Amtrak spokesman.

The passenger rail carrier said it would only operate trains this week that it “can ensure will have enough time to reach their final destinations by 12:01 am on Friday, Sept. 16.”

Will Acela service be affected?

No. Amtrak said most travel within the Northeast Corridor (Boston, New York and Washington) would not be affected and Acela would operate a full schedule. Related branch lines to Albany, New York; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; and Springfield, Massachusetts, also would not be affected.

Amtrak expects minimal changes to Northeast Regional services.

Which routes are affected?

Amtrak announced that all long-distance trains would be canceled starting Thursday. Some routes were suspended earlier in the week.

The cancellations “could be followed by impacts to most state-supported routes,” Amtrak said on Wednesday. Here’s a breakdown on suspended services:

Suspended services starting Tuesday, September 13:

Suspended services starting Wednesday, September 14:

Suspended services starting Thursday, September 15:

Amtrak said it would try to contact passengers whose trains are canceled at least 24 hours in advance.

Can I change my ticket?

yes Amtrak says it will contact customers who are or may be impacted with offers to change their travel dates. Fare differences will be waived for departures through October 31.

Can I get a refund?

yes Impacted customers contacted by Amtrak may receive a full refund without cancellation fees.

Will commuter rail service be affected?

Yes, rail service not provided by Amtrak could be affected by a freight rail strike. Many passenger rail services operate on tracks owned by freight railroads, including Metra in Chicago and Maryland Transit Administration’s MARC trains. More on that here. Check directly with local rail providers about potential disruptions.

CNN’s Omar Jimenez, Geneva Sands, Vanessa Yurkevich, Chris Isidore, Matt McFarland and Pete Muntean contributed to this report. Top image: Amtrak cars and locomotives sit in a yard on August 25 in Chicago. (AP Photo/David Boe)

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