Amtrak, the most important passenger railroad service in the United States, announced Wednesday it has canceled all of its long-distance routes starting Thursday in response to a potential nationwide freight railroad workers' strike.
While Amtrak workers are not involved in the labor dispute between freight railroad workers' labor unions and the country's largest freight railroad companies, Amtrak said almost all of its 21,000 route miles (33,800 km) outside the Northeast Corridor on track was owned, maintained and dispatched by freight railroads.
"While we are hopeful that parties will reach a resolution, Amtrak has now begun phased adjustments to our service in preparation for a possible freight rail service interruption later this week," Amtrak said in a statement. "Such an interruption could significantly impact intercity passenger rail service ... These initial adjustments include cancelling all long-distance trains and could be followed by impacts to most state-supported routes."
The contract negotiations between the National Carriers' Conference Committee that represents major railroad companies and labor unions representing around 115,000 freight railroad workers have lasted for months. If the two sides could not reach any agreement by Friday, there will been a first rail shutdown in the U.S. since 1992.
The two-day 1992 strike involving machinists at CSX Transportation, a leading supplier of rail-based freight transportation in the country, actually shut down all American rail operations, including passenger service, costing 1 billion U.S. dollars, according to an estimation from the White House at that time.
The current looming labor strike would lead to a shutdown of most of the country's railway system as well and could cost 2 billion U.S. dollars a day. Moreover, any nationwide freight railway strike would further punch the country's economy which is already suffering from a supply chain crisis.