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By Vesna Brajkovic, Associate Editor
Amtrak expects to lose $700 million in adjusted operating earnings as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Amtrak officials said yesterday in a teleconference with reporters.
Chairman Anthony Coscia said losses could be climb higher as ridership drops to 95 percent across the network.
Earlier this month, Amtrak received $1 billion in federal funding to address the impact of the pandemic. Coscia said the funds — approved as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act — will protect the railroad from having to dip into its capital reserves and avoid employee layoffs.
The pandemic arrived on the heels of a record-setting year in ridership and operating revenue for Amtrak, Coscia said. The railroad was “on track” to break even in operating earnings by fiscal-year 2021 for the first time in the railroad’s history.
Now, Amtrak has been forced to defer capital projects deemed non-critical and suspend or modify 57 percent of its routes.
For example, Amtrak’s Hiawatha Service between Milwaukee and Chicago will be replaced with bus service beginning today through May 25.
Still, the national intercity passenger railroad is taking advantage of the lower ridership period to perform essential track work and other “critical” projects, Amtrak President and Chief Executive Officer Bill Flynn said.
Baltimore’s Penn Station redevelopment, for example, is continuing as planned.
Flynn, who succeeded Richard Anderson as CEO on April 15, also deferred his salary.
As the railroad shifts to recovery, Amtrak officials will explore investment into touchless technology at fare gates and for food service, they said.