U.S. railroad Amtrak sees travel down 70% in 2021 – CEO

WASHINGTON, Oct 21 (Reuters) – The chief executive of Amtrak will tell lawmakers on Wednesday the U.S. passenger railroad expects travel and revenue to fall by more than 70% from pre-coronavirus levels in 2021, as it considers more service and employee cuts.

The railroad projects just 9 million passenger trips and $598 million in revenue for the budget year that began Oct. 1, down from over 32 million trips and $2.35 billion in the 2019 budget year and $1.24 billion in the 2020 budget year that ended Sept. 30, according to testimony from Amtrak chief executive Bill Flynn reviewed by Reuters.

Ridership and revenue are still down more than 80% and Flynn will tell the Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday that the budget forecasts assume “an effective and widely-distributed vaccine becoming available by the middle of next calendar year – which we know is not a guaranteed outcome.”

The U.S. government-supported passenger railroad earlier this month warned that without a new government bailout it could be forced to cut more spending and train services that could lead to the loss of 2,400 jobs.

In September, Amtrak told Congress it needs up to $4.9 billion in government funding for the 2021 budget year, up from the $2 billion in annual support it usually receives.

Flynn will say on Wednesday that without government assistance Amtrak, which has already cut back on train services across the United States, may need to defer key aspects of a series of improvements in the New York City area and some New York Penn Station improvements.

In September, Amtrak said it was eliminating 100 management positions and furloughing 1,950 union employees as a result of the steep decline in revenue.

U.S. transit and airline demand has been devastated by the pandemic.

In April, Congress gave Amtrak $1 billion in emergency assistance after daily ridership fell by 97%. (Reporting by David Shepardson; editing by Richard Pullin) for reuters.com

Updated: October 22, 2020 — 7:40 AM

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