May 21, 2024

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TOPSHOT - A person carries items collected from the train tracks as a Union Pacific locomotive passes through a section of Union Pacific train tracks littered with thousands of opened boxes and packages stolen from cargo shipping containers, targeted by thieves as the trains stop in downtown Los Angeles, California on January 14, 2022. (Photo by Patrick T. FALLON / AFP) (Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)

Freight rail companies just rolled over workers. Up next, Chicago area communities and commuters

Campaign Action

Metra, the Chicago-area commuter rail, opposes the CPKCS merger, saying it would create substantial commuter rail delays—according to Metra’s analysis, a 299% increase in delays per 100 train miles along track owned by Canadian Pacific. Increased commuter rail delays could lead more people to drive rather than taking the train, in turn creating additional car traffic, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi pointed out in September, saying, “This merger as proposed would cause potentially hundreds of thousands of commuters to drive rather than take extra trains, clogging roads, harming the environment, setting back public transit for decades.”

A number of communities in Iowa, meanwhile, have taken cash payouts from Canadian Pacific in exchange for not opposing the merger. 

The merger would leave just six Class I railroads in the United States, down from 63 in 1976, as The American Prospect has reported. The consolidation of the industry has gone hand in hand with worse conditions for workers and contributed to supply chain problems in recent years, because, through facilities closures and precision scheduled railroading (PSR)—the system that supports understaffing by forcing workers to be constantly available—the rail companies “sacrificed surge capacity,” in the words of one industry analyst. “If you don’t have any additional capacity in your hip pocket, even moderate disruptions put you in a world of hurt,” Larry Gross told Trains.com.

PSR is all about eliminating surge capacity by pushing workers to their limit and then some, and the longer trains planned as part of the merger could also reduce staffing, making the same number of workers responsible for more train. Officials in Texas and other areas the new, longer CPKCS trains would be going through have also raised air quality concerns. Those concerns include more freight trains going through communities of color, bringing increased pollution.

Rep. Katie Porter has called on the Surface Transportation Board to block the merger, citing “a grave threat to competition in the domestic rail industry” that could cause “job losses, harm to other industries reliant on railroads, and more fragility in American supply chain infrastructure.”

As we saw last week, the freight rail companies tend to get what they want, regardless of the costs to other people. Further consolidation is only going to make things worse for communities and workers alike.

The Surface Transportation Board will make its decision on the merger by early 2023.

RELATED STORY: Rail companies have been cutting costs to the bone, and workers are fed up