The Hill is reporting that Amtrak is going to furlough 2,000 employees over the next several weeks. The furloughs will affect about 1,950 agreement employees and 100 management positions.
The reason for this, of course, is a significant drop in Amtrak ridership since the beginning of the pandemic. Given current and projected ridership for 2021, Amtrak reviewed its 2021 operating plan, arriving at the conclusions presented in this spokesperson’s statement:
“Based on this review, we have identified our staffing needs for next year. While we have implemented initiatives to minimize the number of furloughs and involuntary separations, significant reductions remain necessary due to the slow recovery of ridership and revenue.”
The announcement of these furloughs comes on the heels of long-distance train service cuts that Amtrak plans to implement in October. According to an Amtrak press release issued this summer, the following long-distance trains will be cut from daily service to three days per week: California Zephyr, Capitol Limited, City of New Orleans, Coast Starlight, Crescent, Empire Builder, Lake Shore Limited, Palmetto, Southwest Chief and Texas Eagle.
Many Amtrak observers are concerned that only operating three days a week make it more difficult for travelers to plan a round-trip vacation aboard Amtrak, thereby reducing interest in the service. And some have even speculated that Amtrak is using this as a route to permanently abolish these trains. However, RT&S is not aware of any direct evidence to support this speculation.