Chicago Tribune reporter Rich Wronski discusses the cancellation of 26 Metra trains and the rules and regulations Metra employees have to follow.

Metra is planning to run normal schedules on most of its lines this evening, but disruptions will remain on the Burlington Northern Sante Fe line, officials said.

"With the exception of BNSF, the rest of the 11 lines are prepared to run their normal amount of trains this evening," said Metra spokeswoman Meg Reile.

The plan is for the trains to depart downtown at their regular time, but there may be some delays getting out of Union Station and Ogilvie Center and reduced speeds along some stretches of track, Reile said. "We hope to be pretty close to on time."

A couple of other delays and modifications have cropped up this evening, including a North Central Service Line train that was scheduled to depart Union Station for Antioch at 4:25 pm. but is still in the yard and no new departure time has been given, or word on if it will be canceled, Reile said.

Additionally, on the Milwaukee District North Line, Train 2129 and 2131 have been combined and it departed at 4:45 p.m. and Train 2127 is running 15-20 minutes late.

On the BNSF line, trains 1249 and 1373 have been canceled. But trains 1241 and 1255 will run, despite announcements earlier in the day that they were being scratched.

Train 1283 will depart downtown at 6:18 p.m. and will cover the stops of train 1373, Reile said.

“The idea here is to reduce gaps in service,’’ she said. Reile urged riders to check Metra's website. “We are seeing delays but nothing like yesterday.''

As for Wednesday morning, she said Metra plans on running normal schedules on all its lines for the first time since the brutal cold hit this week.

Metra experienced major delays and some cancellations on every line Monday morning when wind chills were minus 40. In the evening, it canceled 27 trains with little notice.

Most of the cancellations were on the three Union Pacific lines and the BNSF line, Metra’s busiest routes which together serve more than 174,000 riders each weekday, although Monday’s ridership was much lower, officials said.

Tuesday morning wasn't much better, with the agency canceling 25 trains. Fourteen of the trains were on the BNSF between Aurora and Chicago, four were on the Union Pacific North line from Kenosha, four were on the Union Pacific Northwest line from Harvard and three were on the Union Pacific West line from Elburn.

Jeff Ulrich said he monitored the Metra website so he'd arrive at his unheated Mayfair station just in time to board an 8:06 a.m. train. Ulrich said the website promised an on-time arrival, but the Milwaukee District North train was at least 20 minutes tardy.

"I'm so furious at Metra right now," he said after arriving at Union Station. "If their website says a train is on time and you go out and wait in unheated conditions for 30 minutes, it's downright dangerous."

Ulrich said passengers at the station were "stomping around trying to keep warm" while awaiting their ride to work.

Other commuters seemed to take the morning challenges more in stride.

"Overall, not too bad," said Steve Selcke, who rode in from Hinsdale on the BNSF line.

Selcke said he arrived at his station in hopes of catching a 7:30 a.m. train and was on board at around 7:50 a.m.. The train ran a modified local schedule, he said, and pulled into downtown shortly after 8:30 a.m.

Paul Levin, who boarded the BNSF North-Central line in Prospect Heights, also didn't complain.  "Pretty close to the norm," he said. "(It was) much worse yesterday."

On the station's departure boards, most outbound Metra trains were projected to leave on time. Many Amtrak trains were canceled.

Metra provided late slips for riders to give to their bosses, and a few passengers stopped to pick one up as delayed train after delayed train pulled into Union Station.

Many riders, however, said they expected the delays.

Debbie Rahn, arriving from Aurora, said her train was about 30 minutes late. She had the benefit of a climate-controlled station to wait in. On board, she said conductors tried to provide updates.

 "They make announcements but you can't really understand what they're saying," Rahn said.

Some of the cancellations were not announced on the Metra website until after 5 a.m. today.

“The UP worked on their schedule to kind of look at what they could operate overnight,’’ said Metra spokesman Michael Gillis. “They let us know in the overnight hour what schedule they could operate. We posted it as soon as we could on our website. We try to get it there as quickly as we can."

The changes were posted before trips were scheduled to leave, including a UP West train that was to leave West Chicago at 6:03 a.m., Gillis said.

“We understand that this has been a challenge for our riders and we apologize for these issues they experienced,’’ Gillis said.

Metra blamed many of its delays and cancellations on switches and signals that it says are vulnerable to extreme temperatures and moisture. It also cited federal regulations that limit the time workers can be on the clock.

Even though some switches are warmed electronically and with propane-gas heaters, a simple chunk of ice can stop a train in its tracks, Metra says. Fine-grained snow tends to collect on trains, compact into hard ice, and then the ice drops on switches and locks them up, said Metra spokeswoman Meg Reile.

The CTA was also experienced problems Tuesday morning, though not as widespread as Metra's.

Major delays were reported on the Red Line because of a mechanical problem on a train and track switching problems at 95th Street, and on the Brown Line because of a door problem on a train at Quincy.

Earlier, around 4:50 a.m., northbound Red Line trains were bypassing the Chicago Avenue stop because of an icy platform. A pipe burst in the station, spilling water onto the mezzanine and making it icy. That continued until about 6:50 a.m.

On the roads, Illinois State Police said they responded to 42 crashes on interstates in Cook County. Thirty of those involved damage and eight involved injuries to drivers or passengers. Another four were hit-and-runs.

None of the injuries were serious, and the total doesn't include incidents in which both cars were drivable and the drivers agreed to exchange information and file a report later.

About 7:10 a.m., the Illinois State Police warned of hazardous conditions near Interstate 55 and Routes 53 and 126 and near the interchange with Interstate 80.

All of Interstate 80 was hazardous from "Harlem Avenue to LaSalle Road," and the police singled out the LaGrange area, the stretch between U.S. Route 30 and Larkin, and the Des Plaines River bridge.

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