Amtrak has submitted a letter to Congress formalising its ongoing request for up to USD 4.85 billion this fiscal year and its partners, following regular discussion with the Congress on federal funding needs.
Of the requested funding, USD 3.22 billion would be needed to preserve Amtrak’s services and capital programme in response to the dramatic loss of revenue due to the pandemic. USD 1.7 billion will be needed for the Northeast Corridor, USD 413 million for the Amtrak share of State Supported services, and USD 1.11 billion for long distance service. The remaining USD 1.63 billion is to support Amtrak RRIF/debt payments, state and commuter partner payments that are payable to Amtrak, the costs of any congressional workforce or service directives, and added revenue risk beyond the current projection.
The letter to Congress sent by the Amtrak CEO Bill Flynn highlights that the “ridership is not returning as quickly or at the levels that we had hoped for, and we updated our forecast for FY 21. We now anticipate needing up to USD 4.857 billion in FY21 to support the company and our employees through this unprecedented situation.”
In addition, as the Congress considers programmes for stimulating the economy, Amtrak has identified USD 5.19 billion in additional investments as part of an economic recovery proposal to help the nation recover from the impacts of the pandemic, for a total federal investment of more than USD 10 billion. This includes critical projects, such as replacing bridges and tunnels on the Northeast Corridor, new rolling stock fleet, infrastructure improvements throughout the national network, and major station improvements.
If the additional USD 5.19 billion investment is made, Amtrak anticipates that, based on various transport studies, more than 75,000 jobs could be created, while building for the future needs of America’s traveling public.
The operator says that the business remains at about 25% of pre-COVID levels and based on the current forecast, the company’s FY 2021 ridership and revenue are estimated to improve to about 40% of pre-COVID levels, which is weaker than anticipated.
“If we do not get additional funding, potential impacts on customers, employees and projects include the reduction of corridor trains as state partners are forced to suspend service, and the deferment of numerous capital projects and procurement critical to the rail, both of which could result in a corresponding loss of an additional 2,400 in total jobs.”
To handle the situation, Amtrak will work to adjust the operating and capital spending plans with the aim of minimizing further impacts on its customers and employees. “If the FY 20 funding level is extended beyond December 11, 2020 and supplemental funding has not yet been provided, 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,” said Flynn in the letter.
In February 2020, Amtrak submitted its Fiscal Year 2021 annual report to the Congress, which included its base FY 21 grant request for USD 2 billion.
Given the dramatic loss in ridership and revenue that Amtrak experienced due to COVID-19, the company submitted a supplemental request for USD 1.47 billion in additional funding on May 25, for a total FY 21 request of USD 3.5 billion.