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Amtrak last week announced it will temporarily reduce service on multiple routes because of staffing shortages and the spread of the omicron variant of the coronavirus.
Over the next 20 weeks, 8% of train departures will be suspended. Not only is the national intercity passenger railroad struggling to fill vacancies, but current staff have been affected by the omicron surge throughout the network, Amtrak officials said in a press release. Additionally, the railroad has noted a 25% reduction in customer demand due to the pandemic, as well as seasonal travel patterns.
Service adjustments will include:• suspension of 8% of Northeast Regional weekly departures from Jan. 24 through March 27;• suspension of 6% of state-supported weekly departures from Jan. 18 through March 27;• suspension of two weekly departures on nine long distance routes from Jan. 24 through March 27, reducing weekly service from daily to five days a week. Those routes are Southwest Chief, California Zephyr, Empire Builder, Coast Starlight, Crescent, Texas Eagle, Capitol Limited, Lake Shore Limited and City of New Orleans; and• suspension of Silver Meteor daily service from Jan. 17 through March 27 to be offset by a corresponding increase in capacity, as dictated by demand, on the Silver Star and Palmetto routes serving nearly all the destinations served by the Silver Meteor.
Amtrak’s long-distance Silver Star, Palmetto, Auto Train, Cardinal and Sunset Limited routes will have no service reductions. Riders impacted by the reductions will be offered same-day travel alternatives; alternate booking is provided at no charge, or customers can request a full refund.
Amtrak offiicals anticipate that COVID-19's impact on staffing will continue to affect parts of Amtrak’s network and the availability of its fleet in the near term, said Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari.
"As overall staffing and equipment availability levels improve, we will look for opportunities to restore service levels faster where possible," he said.