Signal issue fixed at Union Station; tens of thousands experienced massive delays

CHICAGO — Amtrak and Metra officials about 9 p.m. Thursday said signal issues that caused massive delays for 12.5 hours have been fixed.

Officials said they expect trains to run on time for the Friday morning commute. Amtrak in a tweet Thursday apologized to commuters. Tens of thousands of people were impacted.

An Amtrak computer switching issue began around 8:30 a.m. Thursday. Workers needed to manually operate each switch from the ground to allow trains in and out of Union Station at 225 S. Canal St.

That meant one train in, one train out at a time — causing major delays.

Metra alone operates 86 trains out of Union Station during the evening rush. Trains were filled to capacity and heavily delayed getting in or out.

People who opted to take an Uber or Lyft home saw steep surge prices. One commuter reported that a ride from Union Station to Buffalo Grove cost $130.

The root cause of the issue is under investigation.

It's the latest in a winter filled with rail issues.

Newly released numbers show all but one of Metra’s lines suffered from performance issues in January.

Metra has a goal of operating 95 percent of its trains “on time," which is defined by the company as arriving within six minutes of the posted schedule time. In January, only the Metra Electric line met that goal. That’s ironic because an ice storm shut down the Electric Line for several days in January while crews repaired overhead wires.

Heritage Corridor trains were the most frequently delayed with only 81 percent arriving on time last month. North Central trains were the second most frequently delayed, arriving on time 87 percent of the time.

A total of 1,331 trains arrived six or more minutes late in the month of January.

Weather was the most frequently cited reason for a Metra delay in January (603 trains), followed by signal/switch failure (196 trains) and mechanical failure (117 trains).

Undefined “human error” was cited as the reason 89 trains being delayed last month.

METRA’S “ON TIME” PERFORMANCE IN JANUARY (Source: Metra):

  • Metra Electric: 96.4 percent
  • BNSF: 92.8 percent
  • Milwaukee District-W: 92.4 percent
  • Union Pacific-N: 90.7 percent
  • Union Pacific-W: 90.6 percent
  • Southwest Service: 90.4 percent
  • Union Pacific-NW: 90.3 percent
  • Rock Island: 89.9 percent
  • Milwaukee District-N: 88.4 percent
  • North Central Service: 87.6 percent
  • Heritage Corridor:  81.8 percent
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