Amtrak stated Friday that it will temporarily cut service on some trains due to staffing issues resulting from a rise in Omicron variant cases among its workers.
While nearly 97 percent of Amtrak workers are fully vaccinated, several hundred employees — including service personnel, conductors, engineers and mechanical crew members — have been sidelined because of Covid-19 infections or exposures, officials said. The agency will suspend 8% of its train departures in the next 10 week.
“These Covid-related absences, when combined with the general skilled work force shortage Amtrak and other transportation companies are facing, have reduced our ability to consistently deliver our current schedules and impacted the pace of hiring and training efforts,” Jason Abrams, an Amtrak spokesman, said in a statement.
The Northeast Regional route will see 8 percent of weekly departures suspended between January 24 and March 27, due to the reductions. Amtrak will also reduce its long-distance service, and suspend 6 percent weekly departures on state-supported routes between Jan. 18 and March 27.
Amtrak said it is working to resolve the issue, including trying to hire more workers and train new staff members to “avoid staffing shortfalls due to unplanned absences,” according to the statement.
According to the statement riders affected by service reductions will receive same-day travel alternatives. Customers will also be notified about any changes.
The suspensions come on the heels of previous service reductions, both weather and Covid-related, which Amtrak instituted between New Year’s Eve and Jan. 6 . Officials reaffirmed their optimism and stated they were likely to avoid cuts in service after dropping the requirement that all employees be vaccinated for Covid-19. After a federal court ruling, the agency had to drop the mandate.
Jim Mathews, the president and chief executive officer of the Rail Passengers Association, said the agency’s decision to reduce service reflected how the virus was continuing to disrupt daily life and travel plans for Americans.
“This is a nationwide problem, not just an Amtrak problem, and we’re encouraged to see Amtrak trying to make the smallest possible cuts to carry the railroad through,” Mr. Mathews said.
Source: NY Times