By Justin Franz
WASHINGTON — An additional 2,400 Amtrak employees could be furloughed in the coming months — on top of the approximately 2,000 that are already receiving pink slips this fall — if it does not receive more than $4.857 billion for Fiscal Year 2021. In a letter to congressional leaders on Oct. 8, Amtrak President and CEO Bill Flynn also stated that ridership was not recovering as fast as the railroad hoped.
Earlier this year, when the COVID-19 pandemic first began to impact the United States, Amtrak’s ridership dropped 95 percent and it has not fully recovered since then. Amtrak officials state that business remains at about 25 percent of what it was a year ago and current ridership and revenue forecasts show that it will only improve to about 40 percent of pre-COVID-19 levels by next year.
“To manage this situation, Amtrak will work to adjust its operating and capital spending plans during this short term CR, with the aim of minimizing further impacts on our customers and employees. However, if the FY 20 funding level is extended beyond December 11, 2020 and supplemental funding has not yet been provided, we will be unable to avoid more drastic impacts that could have long lasting effects on our Northeast Corridor infrastructure and the national rail system,” said Flynn in the letter.
Prior to the pandemic, Amtrak employed about 20,000 people. On Sept. 30, Amtrak laid off 100 management employees and plans on furloughing 1,950 union employees between now and November. Amtrak is also reducing almost all of its long-distance train services to just three days a week.