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Amtrak suspends long-distance train services ahead of rail worker strike deadline

Freight railroads must reach an agreement with all their unions to avert a strike Friday night.

Amtrak announced Wednesday it is suspending long-distance routes ahead of a Friday night deadline to avert a strike along the country's freight rail lines.

Amtrak said in an emailed statement that it was taking the measure to avoid stranding passengers en route to their destinations. Much of Amtrak's long-distance service runs on freight tracks.

The company had already suspended 10 of 15 routes when it made the announcement around 1:30 p.m. Wednesday that service on its five remaining long-distance routes would be suspended.

It said most travel within the Amtrak-owned Northeast Corridor and related East Coast branch lines would not be affected and that service on its Acela express line would continue to operate a full schedule.

Earlier Wednesday, the Midwest commuter rail carrier Metra said multiple Chicago-area routes would be canceled in advance of the deadline. The cancellations, which will take effect late Thursday, will affect 23 trains on the BNSF Railway, Union Pacific North, Union Pacific Northwest and Union Pacific West lines.

A full list of affected Metra trains can be found here.

Negotiators for railroad carriers and unions met in Labor Secretary Marty Walsh’s office Wednesday as the sides tried to negotiate a deal, CNBC reported. The meeting started just after 9 a.m. ET, CNBC said, and continued into midday.

“The parties are negotiating in good faith and have committed to staying at the table today,” a Labor Department representative told the network.

The Associated Press reported that by 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, one labor union had already rejected a deal. The railroads need to reach an agreement with all their unions to avert the strike, the AP said.