By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Amtrak Chief Executive William Flynn told Congress on Wednesday the U.S. passenger railroad needs up to $4.9 billion in government funding to avoid service and job cuts, and address mounting losses.
Flynn said the government-owned corporation anticipates needing that amount “to operate and invest in our network, support our partners, and address various congressional concerns like avoiding employee furloughs and maintaining daily long distance service.”
Amtrak is burning $250 million a month and without additional government assistance would have to make “very dramatic reductions across the company in order to stave off bankruptcy,” Flynn told a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee.
Amtrak in May had asked for a further $1.475 billion bailout after getting $1 billion from Congress in April. It typically receives $2 billion in annual government support.
Last week, Amtrak said it would furlough more than 2,000 workers, or about 10% of its staff, on Oct. 1 as a result of the steep decline in travel demand during the coronavirus pandemic – ridership and revenue levels are down 95% year-over-year.
Approximately 1,950 union members will be furloughed and 100 management jobs will be cut. Amtrak has said previously it employs about 20,000 workers.
Beginning in October, Amtrak is temporarily reducing service on most long distance routes from daily to three times per week after making earlier significant cuts to other service.
Transit agencies are urging Congress to approve up to $36 billion on top of a $25 billion bailout it approved in March. Urban transit systems have been hurt by millions of workers staying home rather than commuting and a sharp decline in tourism.
Private U.S. bus companies are seeking $15 billion in government assistance.
U.S. airports want $10 billion in government assistance on top of an earlier $10 billion bailout, while passenger airlines want a further $25 billion in payroll assistance.
Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Marguerita Choy and Grant McCool.