By Richard Wronski / Chicago Transportation Journal
On Monday, Metra inaugurated a 2:45 pm departure train from Union Station. The additional train boosts the number of Heritage Corridor runs from six to seven: three inbound morning runs and four outbound runs each weekday. The line has no weekend service.
The new train will make stops at Summit, Willow Springs, Lemont and Lockport before arriving at its final destination in Joliet at 3:50 p.m.
The Heritage Corridor is Metra’s least-used line, with only 2,400 weekday riders. By contrast, the Electric District line has 170 weekday trains carrying 33,500 riders, and the BNSF Line operates 94 weekday trains, with nearly 64,000 riders.
Metra CEO/Executive Director Don Orseno said the additional train provides more convenience and options for southwest suburban customers.
The new service is the result of years of effort by Metra and elected officials along the route to bolster the Heritage Corridor, Orseno said. The new service required agreements from the Canadian National Railway Co., which owns the tracks and operates freight service on the line, and Amtrak, which owns Union Station.
U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-3rd), whose district includes much of the Heritage Corridor, has pressed CN for years to allow Metra to add service. In 2013, Lipinski said he was so frustrated with CN that he considered introducing legislation to force the railroad to allow more Metra trains.
Lipinski told the Chicago Transportation Journal he was pleased with CN’s decision but said it was “not the end of the fight” to boost Heritage Corridor service.
CN spokesman Patrick Waldron said the freight railway had worked with Metra to identify a time when additional service could be added without additional infrastructure investment.
Previously, CN had contended that the Heritage Corridor was being used at full capacity for its freight customers, six daily Amtrak trains and existing Metra service, and that no more commuter trains could be added without significant capacity and infrastructure upgrades.
CN, one of North America’s largest railway companies, also said it believed it should not have to pay to improve commuter rail service.
A 2013 study, paid for by the state, estimated that it would cost $152 million to upgrade the Heritage Corridor to three tracks from two and add six Metra trains per day.