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Metra makes Rock Island Line weekend express trains permanent

A Rock Island Line Metra train pulls into the 159th Street Station in January 2013. | Sun-Times file photo

Six weekend express trains in each direction are being added permanently to Metra’s Rock Island Line, officials said Wednesday.

About 870 additional Saturday customers and 300 additional Sunday customers took advantage of the new service each week during an experiment that started in June, officials said.

The express trains cut 20 minutes from the travel time between suburban stations and downtown Chicago by bypassing the Beverly Branch, which is served by separate trains.

The weekend express train experiment was due to be discontinued on Nov. 29, but instead will be made part of the permanent schedule, with slight changes in arrival and departure times, Metra officials said Wednesday.

The inbound Rock Island weekend express trains will leave Joliet five minutes earlier, and outbound express trains will leave La Salle Street 10 minutes later.

In addition, Metra said it is adding an outbound express train to the weekday Rock Island schedule starting Nov. 30.

Train 413 will still depart at 4:57 but will stop at 35th Street, express to Tinley Park/80th Avenue — the busiest stop on the line, and then make all remaining stops with the addition of Joliet.

Customers who now take train 413 to stations before 80th Avenue will be able to take the No. 303, which will now depart at 5 p.m. and serve all mainline stations to Tinley Park/Oak Park Ave. Customers who take the No. 303 can instead take the No. 617 or 419.

Other schedule changes will be made to a handful of trains, starting Nov. 30, to better reflect actual operating conditions, officials said.