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Metra’s Storm Delays Partly Due To UP Safety Rules

Metra Train Halted

Approaching thunderstorms have halted Metra trains in the northwest suburbs. (Credit: Lana Hinshaw-Klann/CBS)

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CHICAGO (WBBM) – Metra has been rolling with the punches in severe weather the past few weeks, the same as everyone else. But the recent storms have underscored a difference that is creating delays for commuters.

Metra and the BNSF Ry. have one standard for safe train operations when severe storm warnings are issued. The Union Pacific Railroad (UP) has one that is more restrictive. As a result, UP has halted commuter trains several times in recent weeks on the three lines it operates for Metra, causing delays of anywhere from a few minutes to several hours.

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Riders are complaining as on-time performance plummets, and Metra Deputy Executive Director George Hardwidge said Friday that the differences have become so pronounced that he will travel to UP headquarters in Omaha late this month to discuss potential adjustments in the policy.

“We’re going to be asking them to take a fresh look at what makes sense for commuter (trains) — which may not necessarily make the most sense for freight (trains),” he said.

UP has maintained its current policy for several years. Hardwidge says he believes the Metra and BNSF standards, while less stringent, are no less safe.

Metra’s overall on-time performance slipped in May to 91.1 percent, one of the lowest figures in years, in part because of such delays.