Amtrak seeks nearly $1.5 billion from Congress as ridership plunges

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Amtrak submitted a letter to Congress outlining an additional $1.475 billion in supplemental funding needed in fiscal 2021. This additional funding is necessary for Amtrak to operate minimum service levels across the passenger rail network and continue capital investments for the future, the letter stated.

The funds would also support the government-owned railroad’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 federal funding for the next fiscal year,” Amtrak CEO Bill Flynn wrote.

Amtrak is taking steps to reduce its operating costs by approximately $500 million, including temporarily reducing train capacity across our 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, Flynn wrote

“It is clear that Amtrak faces daunting challenges in the fiscal year 2021, which will require us to take action to protect our rail network, our critical capital assets, and the livelihoods of our employees,” Flynn wrote.Amtrak employs 1,000 in Delaware.

With strong ridership and revenue levels in the first quarter of fiscal 2020, Amtrak was on track for another record-breaking year. However, Amtrak, like all other modes, has seen a dramatic decline in demand for service since the pandemic, and is expecting ridership to only return to half of its past level in fiscal 2021.

The $1.475 billion is in addition to Amtrak’s $2.040 billion annual grant request submitted to Congress earlier this year.

The rail system was nearing profitability on an operating basis, but like most passenger railroads needs funding for upgrades and maintenance.

Cost-cutting efforts included restructuring real estate holdings with the railroad shedding leases and recently acquiring an office building in downtown Wilmington.

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