Amtrak is warning of another round of job cuts as it pares back train service amid a stubbornly slow recovery and said it does not plan to ask Congress for enough money to preserve jobs.
An executive at the rail network wrote to employees that it plans to run many of the long-distance routes less frequently, saving the rail network $150 million in costs. A copy of the message was obtained by CNN.
Executive Vice President Roger Harris did not quantify the job losses, but said the company “will work quickly to determine what staffing reductions or furloughs will occur.”
The passenger railroad service does not plan to ask Congress for additional funds to save those jobs, nor the 20% company-wide furloughs announced in May, spokesperson Kimberly Woods told CNN on Tuesday.
Amtrak has requested more than $3.5 billion from Congress this year, including a special $1.47 billion request to help with coronavirus-related costs and losses.
Woods said Amtrak is “in the planning phase” and has not determined if the long-distance job cuts will be in addition to the 20% reductions.
In the memo, Harris wrote: “Congress is not going to support us indefinitely to run mostly empty trains. We need to demonstrate that we are using our resources efficiently and responsibly.”
Amtrak’s 15 long-distance routes stretch as long as the 2,400 mile California Zephyr line, running from Chicago to the San Francisco area. It used to run that route – and one other – daily, but plans to reduce service on most lines to three times weekly.
“As the economy begins to reopen, demand remains down more than 70%,” Woods told CNN. “We forecast a slow recovery and expect systemwide ridership in FY21 to be half of what it was in 2019.”
Employee unions call for Congress’ help: The Amtrak employee unions, however, are asking Congress to chip in to save those jobs. A coalition of 14 unions wrote to Congress on Friday requesting $350 million for Amtrak to prevent the layoffs.
They warned the rail line will “use the pandemic as an excuse to permanently and artificially cut its workforce, eliminate or reduce routes and on-board or other customer services, or replace furloughed Amtrak employees with outsourced contractors.”
Amtrak recently turned 49 and said before the pandemic, it was on track for its first profitable year.