Cubs not alone with problems in Chicago

June 14, 2011

CHICAGO — Newspapers and television and radio stations here June 14 were asking Union Pacific, “Is this any way to run a railroad?” after a shortage of UP engineers caused the cancellation of six morning Metra commuter trains and inconvenienced thousands of passengers trying to reach their jobs here.

Metra pays UP to operate and staff the Metra trains on its west suburban line.

The Chicago Tribune reported that “half a dozen engineers were allowed to take vacation simultaneously, and another called in sick.” Additional engineers qualified to operate the commuter trains and called by UP had already exceeded their hours-of-service following signal maintenance delays Sunday and could not report for work.

Metra’s CEO told the Chicago Tribune the fault was with UP and its “poor manpower planning.”

A UP spokesman responded, “We are looking at our crew management team to find out what happened and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

DePaul University Transportation Professor Joseph Schwieterman, who has written extensively on railroads, told the Chicago Tribune, “This is something we expect with an airline, but not with a railroad. The lesson is, UP needs to have better contingency plans.”