New 110 mph rail schedules start June 26 for Amtrak runs to Chicago

ST. LOUIS  — Up to 20 minutes will be shaved off Amtrak’s St. Louis-to-Chicago travel times under new higher-speed schedules that kick in June 26.

The passenger rail line on May 3 began running at speeds up to 110 mph between the two cities but held off changing its schedules until after several weeks of experience. Previously the maximum was 90 mph.

Under the new timetables, it will take from four hours, 55 minutes to five hours, 34 minutes to get from St. Louis to Chicago, depending on how many in-between stops are scheduled on a run.

Now, the shortest time allotted for a northbound run is five hours, nine minutes.


Faster rail journeys were among the goals of a $1.95 billion upgrade of the corridor that was largely finished in 2017.

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But delays in installing and testing new GPS-related safety technology kept Amtrak from hitting higher speeds as soon as the Illinois Department of Transportation had predicted.

In 2021, Amtrak was allowed to boost the maximum speed on the route to 90 mph from 79 mph. That cut trip times by about 15 minutes. Federal officials authorized the increase to 110 mph in May.

The higher speeds are employed only in the more rural parts of the route outside the two large metro areas, roughly between Alton and Joliet on the southern edge of the Chicago region.

Among other improvements are new rails and concrete ties, new and rehabbed stations, improved street crossing gates, sidewalk gates, and pedestrian fences at crossings.

President Joe Biden announced Thursday that a tentative railway labor agreement has been reached, averting a nationwide strike that could have been devastating to the economy before the pivotal midterm elections. Railroads and union representatives had been in negotiations for 20 hours at the Labor Department well past midnight to hammer out a deal, as there was a risk of a strike starting on Friday that could have shut down rail lines across the country. The president brought business and union leaders to the Oval Office on Thursday morning, then hailed the deal in remarks in the White House Rose Garden. “This agreement is validation of what I’ve always believed, unions and management can work together — can work together — for the benefit of everyone,” Biden declared. Biden made a key phone call to Labor Secretary Marty Walsh at 9 p.m. Wednesday as the talks were ongoing after Italian dinner had been brought in, according to White House officials who insisted on anonymity to discuss the conversations. On speaker phone, the president told the negotiators to get a deal done and to consider the harm to families, farmers and businesses if a shutdown occurred, the officials said. What resulted from the back and forth was a tentative agreement that will go to union members for a vote after a post-ratification cooling off period of several weeks. One union had to wake up its board to move forward on the agreement, which involved 50 calls from White House officials to organized labor officials. In the Oval Office, a beaming Biden joked that he was surprised everyone was “still standing” after the late night and that they should be “home in bed.” The strike would also have disrupted passenger traffic as well as freight rail lines, because Amtrak and many commuter railroads operate on tracks owned by the freight railroads. Amtrak had already canceled a number of its long-distance trains this week, and said the rest of its long-distance trains would stop Thursday ahead of the strike deadline.

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