UPDATE: Amtrak Extends Some Service Reductions

Amtrak planned to reduce service for two months due to a nationwide spike in COVID-19 cases. Now it says service on some routes will not return to normal until spring or summer. Photo by Justin Franz. 

UPDATE: Amtrak Extends Some Service Reductions

By Justin Franz 

WASHINGTON — Daily Amtrak service on most of its long-distance routes will not resume on March 28, as previously planned, the railroad announced Thursday, and some trains will not return to a normal schedule until spring or even summer. 

In a statement to Railfan & Railroad, Amtrak officials blamed ongoing hiring challenges for why it would not be resuming all regular service this month.

In January, Amtrak announced that it was reducing service across its network due to a nationwide spike in COVID-19 cases that was impacting employees. The biggest impact was on a number of long-distance routes that went from daily service to just five departures per week. Service across the board was supposed to return to normal at the end of this month, but now Amtrak said only the Texas Eagle, Capitol Limited and Coast Starlight would be back to its daily schedule (other services, including Auto Train, Palmetto and Silver Star, were not reduced). 

The other trains, including the California Zephyr, City of New Orleans, Crescent, Empire Builder, Southwest Chief and Lake Shore Limited, will resume daily service later on “as staffing and other resources allow.”

Empire Service in New York and Hiawatha Service in the Midwest will increase starting March 28. The Acela and Northeast Regional will continue on its current reduced schedule (an 8 percent reduction in daily departures) for the foreseeable future. 

In January, Amtrak stated that although 97 percent of its employees were vaccinated, “several hundred of our on-board service personnel, conductors, engineers, and mechanical crews continue to be impacted by Covid infections or exposures, particularly given the highly infectious nature of the new variant and the prevalence of breakthrough cases.” In recent weeks, however, COVID-19 cases have dropped dramatically across the country. 

Amtrak officials said they were helping passengers impacted by the new service reductions. 

“Customers with existing reservations on impacted departures are being notified and will be offered alternative travel options at no charge or a full refund,” a spokesperson said. “Most customers impacted by these service changes will be offered same-day travel alternatives. For impacted customers without a same-day option, re-accommodation will be offered within one day of the original departure date.”

This article was posted on: March 3, 2022