Amtrak to cut up to 20 percent of workers as coronavirus crushes ridership

Amtrak plans to slash up to 20 percent of its workforce as the coronavirus pandemic devastates its ridership and revenue, reports say.

The beleaguered national railroad with more than 18,000 employees will make the cuts by October despite receiving a $1 billion federal bailout under the CARES Act stimulus bill, according to The Wall Street Journal.

“This reduction is necessary to ensure we have a sustainable Amtrak that can continue to make critical investments in our core and long-term growth strategies, while also keeping safety as our top priority,” CEO Bill Flynn told employees in a memo Tuesday, according to Reuters.

The cuts come as Amtrak reportedly grapples with a 95 percent plunge in ridership and ticket revenue since the start of the pandemic, which has caused demand for travel to evaporate.

The company will start offering retirement incentives and buyouts before imposing involuntary layoffs, the Journal reported. Amtrak did not immediately respond to a request for comment early Wednesday.

Amtrak reportedly expects just half of its pre-pandemic ridership to return in 2021 as the nation tries to recover from the virus crisis. Even that will take “substantial growth over the next 16 months, and it will have to be achieved against a backdrop of stunning unemployment, socio-economic dislocation and a potential recession,” Flynn said in the memo, according to the Journal.

“This may sound easy, but the climb back will be hard,” Flynn reportedly wrote.

The Washington-based railroad says it will need about $1.5 billion in additional federal aid to avoid suspending some long-distance routes, cutting schedules on others and scaling back its high-speed Acela service between Boston and DC, Reuters reported. Amtrak is also planning to cut about $500 million in operating costs, according to the news agency.

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