Transportation

Amtrak preparing to cut up to 20 percent of staff

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Amtrak plans to cut its workforce by about one-fifth in the next fiscal year after the coronavirus pandemic reduced ridership and ticket revenue by about 95 percent.

CEO Bill Flynn said the company projects ridership will only return to about 50 percent of pre-pandemic levels in 2021. “This may sound easy, but the climb back will be hard,” Flynn said in an internal obtained by The Hill.

The memo was first reported by the Wall Street Journal Tuesday.

In the memo, he said even achieving that 50 percent rebound will require “substantial growth over the next 16 months, and it will have to be achieved against a backdrop of stunning unemployment, socio-economic dislocation and a potential recession,” he wrote.

Amtrak plans to implement the cuts by October when the rail service’s 2021 fiscal year begins. It employs over 18,000 people nationwide.

Amtrak announced in mid-May that it will resume its Acela service on the Northeast Corridor, running from Washington to Boston, on June 1.

“We think that having had the Acela brand out of the market for an extended period of time is a risk for not only Acela, but for Amtrak, too, considering how much revenue Acela produces,” Chief Marketing Officer Roger Harris said in late April.

“And our best estimate, based on the shutdown rules in local communities, is that beginning of June will be the most likely time when people would start to travel again, at least for business,” he added.

The company has also required passengers to wear masks since early May, with exemptions for passengers eating in designated areas or those sitting alone or with a travel companion in their own pair of seats. Other measures the train operator has taken include capping bookings at 50 percent capacity, cashless transactions at stations and on trains, and promoting physical distancing.

The Hill has reached out to Amtrak for comment.

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