On Friday, Amtrak said it would temporarily reduce the number of flights on some trains due to staffing issues related to rising Omicron cases among workers.
While nearly 97 percent of Amtrak workers are fully vaccinated, officials said, several hundred employees, including maintenance personnel, conductors, engineers and mechanics, have been laid off due to infection or exposure to Covid-19. The agency will suspend 8 percent of its train departures over the next 10 weeks.
“These Covid-related absences, combined with the general shortage of skilled labor experienced by Amtrak and other transportation companies, have reduced our ability to consistently meet our current schedules and have impacted hiring and training rates,” said Jason Abrams, Amtrak spokesperson. a spokesman, the report said.
The cuts will affect the Northeast Regional Route, where 8 percent of weekly departures will be suspended from January 24 to March 27. Amtrak will also cut some of its intercity flights and suspend 6 percent of weekly departures on state-supported routes from January 18 to March 27.
Amtrak said it is working to address the issue, including trying to hire more workers and train new employees to “avoid shortages due to unscheduled absences,” the statement said.
Passengers affected by the service cuts will be offered same-day travel alternatives and customers will be notified of the changes, according to the statement.
The suspension comes on the heels of previous service cuts, both weather and Covid-related, that Amtrak implemented between New Year’s Eve and January 6. Officials were upbeat last month and said they could likely avoid layoffs after lifting the requirement to vaccinate all employees against Covid-19. The agency relinquished the mandate after a federal court decision suspended enforcement of an executive order for federal contractors.
Jim Matthews, president and CEO of the Railroad Passenger Association, said the agency’s decision to cut flights reflects how the virus continues to disrupt Americans’ daily lives and travel plans.
“This is a nationwide issue, not just an Amtrak issue, and we are encouraged that Amtrak is trying to make as few cuts as possible to get the rail line up and running,” Mr. Matthews said.