U.S. railroad Amtrak warns of 2,400 additional job losses without new bailout

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FILE PHOTO: Outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Bakersfield, California

By David Shepardson

(Reuters) – U.S. government-supported passenger railroad Amtrak said on Thursday that without a new government bailout it could be forced to cut more spending and train services which could lead to the loss of another 2,400 jobs.

Amtrak last month told Congress it needs up to $4.9 billion in government funding for the current budget year, up from the around $2 billion in annual support it usually receives.

The railroad, which said last month it was cutting 2,000 jobs, said on Thursday that without more support from Congress, reduced capital spending would result in the loss of 775 jobs and further reductions in train service by state partners would likely result in 1,625 job losses.

Without the new funding, Amtrak chief executive Bill Flynn said, “we will be unable to avoid more drastic impacts that could have long lasting effects on our Northeast Corridor infrastructure and the national rail system.”

U.S. transit and airline demand has been devastated by a massive falloff in travel due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In April, Congress gave Amtrak a $1 billion bailout after daily ridership fell by 96%.

Amtrak said on Thursday demand remains at about 25% of pre-COVID levels. It forecasts ridership and revenue for the 2020-21 budget year that started Oct. 1 will improve to “about 40% of pre-COVID levels, which is weaker than anticipated.”

U.S. passenger airlines are seeking a new $25 billion bailout to keep tens of thousands of workers on the job, while major U.S. public transit systems have sought $32 billion to keep municipal buses and trains running.

That’s on top of a $25 billion bailout public transit received in April.

Last week, the U.S. private motorcoach, school bus and domestic passenger vessel industries said they collectively furloughed or laid off an estimated 308,000 employees over the last eight months.

“Unlike other modes of transportation, such as airlines, rail and public transit, these transportation industries have not received direct economic relief to date, putting them in peril,” several trade groups said in a joint statement.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; editing by Diane Craft and Sonya Hepinstall)

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