Amtrak Seeks More Emergency Funding from Congress

In a letter to Congress on May 26, Amtrak requested an additional $1.475 billion in supplemental funding needed fiscal year 2021 so the national passenger rail operator can maintain minimum service levels across its network and continue with planned capital investments in spite of severe ridership declines due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

[Above photo by Amtrak.]

This is in addition to Amtrak’s $2.04 billion annual grant request submitted to Congress earlier this year.

Amtrak added in a statement that the funds would also support Amtrak’s 17 state partners on its national network, as well as nine commuter and state partners on the Northeast Corridor.

Amtrak’s Flynn

“As the severity and duration of this pandemic and its economic fallout become clearer, we are seeking supplemental federal funding for the next fiscal year,” said Bill Flynn, Amtrak’s president and CEO, in the letter.

To further help offset the impact of revenue losses, Amtrak said it is taking “significant steps” to reduce its operating costs by approximately $500 million, including temporarily reducing train capacity across its system to match demand, restructuring its workforce, and controlling discretionary expenses. Yet even with these steps, Amtrak still requires additional federal investment in FY 2021.

“It is clear that Amtrak faces daunting challenges in FY 2021, which will require us to take action to protect our rail network, our critical capital assets, and the livelihoods of our employees,” said Flynn in the letter.

Photo by Amtrak

With strong ridership and revenue levels in the first quarter of FY 2020, Amtrak said it was on track for a record-breaking year.

However, the rail operator – like other transportation modes – witnessed a dramatic decline in service demand since the COVID-19 outbreak and is expecting ridership to only return to approximately 50 percent in FY 2021.

On April 10, the Federal Railroad Administration officially made $1.02 billion available to Amtrak to support its COVID-19 response activities as well as help defray the pandemic’s impact on its operations and business; funding provided via the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security or CARES Act.

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