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Rail News: Amtrak

Amtrak asks Congress for another $1.5 billion in FY2021

Amtrak CEO Bill Flynn
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Amtrak on Monday submitted a letter to Congress seeking an additional $1.475 billion in supplemental funding in fiscal-year 2021 to help the railroad operate minimum service levels and continue capital investments. 

The funds also would support Amtrak's 17 state partners on the national network and nine commuter and state partners on the Northeast Corridor.

"As the severity and duration of this pandemic and its economic fallout become clearer, we are seeking supplemental funding for the next fiscal year," Amtrak President and Chief Executive Officer Bill Flynn said in the letter.

To help offset the impact of revenue losses during the pandemic, Amtrak has reduced operating costs by about $500 million, including temporarily reducing train capacity across the system to match demand, restructuring its workforce and controlling discretionary spending, Amtrak officials wrote.

When Amtrak submitted its annual grant request to Congress in February, the railroad was on track to have its first break-even year in the company's history. The railroad's request of $2.04 billion for the NEC and national network for FY2021 was based on projected needs before the pandemic hit the United States. Since then, Amtrak officials have determined the railroad needs the additional discretionary funds. 

"Amtrak now projects that a full-year 50 reduction in systemwide revenue is a prudent estimate for FY2021 compared to our original projections for the year," Flynn wrote. "While generating estimates of future demand is incredibly challenging, given the unprecedented nature of our current circumstances and the unknowable trajectory of the pandemic, the data available to us support this assumption."

Amtrak has seen a dramatic decline in demand for service since the pandemic began, and is expecting ridership to return to about 50 percent, or just over 16 million riders, in FY2021, Flynn wrote.

"Today, many of our routes are struggling to reach 10 percent of the ridership levels we had only months ago," the letter stated.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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