RPA Fighting Amtrak Plans to Reduce Service

The Rail Passengers Association is launching a lobbying campaign to try to persuade Congress to approve the supplemental $1.475 billion in funding that Amtrak is seeking in fiscal year 2021 from Congress.

That money would be on top of the passenger carrier’s regular funding request for the FY2021.

The passenger advocacy group said that it will seek to prod Congress to approve the funding with statutory mandates that service continue to operate daily on routes where that is now the case.

A letter from Amtrak President William Flynn said that even with the supplemental appropriation all but one of Amtrak’s long-distance routes would be reduced to less than daily operation.

Without the supplemental funding, Flynn warned, all of the long-distance routes are “at risk,” which presumably means of being suspended or discontinued.

RPA is appealing to its members to contact members of Congress to demand daily service and to protect Amtrak’s workforce.

The carrier has said it expects to reduce its workforce by 20 percent.

Flynn’s letter has draw a sharp rebuke from Rep. Dan Lipinski, chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Railroads.

In a statement, Lipinski was particularly critical of Amtrak’s plans to cut its workforce.

The statement cited the $1 billion that Amtrak received from the CARES Act.

“It was my understanding that Amtrak did not plan to furlough any workers due to COVID-19,” Lipinski said.

RPA said Flynn’s letter left a number of unanswered questions including how Amtrak could restore service to pre-pandemic levels if one in five employees will be gone either through voluntary retirement or furlough.

Other unanswered questions are what level of less than daily service Amtrak envisions for its long-distance trains whether it would be every other day, five days a week or tri-weekly.

RPA is calling for Amtrak to explain how much the carrier expects to save with less than daily service, how much revenue would be lost and what threshold of ridership would trigger full restoration to daily service.

The rail passenger advocacy group said Congress should up the supplemental funding for Amtrak to at least $1.5 billion for a total of $3.54 billion in total funding on the condition that clear protections for passengers and workers imposed.

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