UNITED States national operator Amtrak has announced that it will begin the restoration of regular daily services on its long-distance routes from May, following the approval of $US 1.7bn of Covid-19 recovery funding for the operator. 

The funding is part of the $US 1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which was signed into law by president Mr Joe Biden on March 11. It will enable Amtrak to fully restore daily service on 12 long-distance routes following pandemic-related schedule reductions in 2020 as well as the daily Auto Train and the Cardinal and Sunset Limited trains, which operate three times per week.  

Amtrak said it “will sustain and restore operations and recall the more-than 1200 furloughed employees through the remainder of the 2021 fiscal year, and into 2022. All destinations and scheduled departure/arrival times served by the long-distance network will be maintained, providing customers with significantly more departures for the upcoming summer travel season.” 

The new schedule has been updated on all Amtrak reservation systems, including Amtrak.com and the Amtrak app.  

The restoration of services will be grouped into three phases: May 24; May 31; and June 7. This is in line with previous estimates for the restoration of regular services. 

It follows the publication of three metrics by Amtrak in August 2020, which the operator said would determine when regular long-distance services would be restored. Assessments according to these benchmarks began on February 15. 

“The schedule restoration is a critical part of Amtrak’s strategy for investing in long-distance service,” the company says. 

Other components of this strategy include: 

  • the debut of new Viewliner II sleeping cars on the Silver Service, the first addition to the Amtrak sleeper fleet in more than two decades 
  • upgraded bedding, towels and linens in private rooms aboard the Auto Train, with additional routes rolling out starting in summer 
  • fully-refreshed Amfleet II cars for Coach Class routes along the East Coast, including new seating cushions, carpets, curtains and LED reading lights 
  • multi-year interior refresh programme for Superliner and Viewliner I equipment, including new seating cushions, carpet and curtains, beginning to enter service this summer 
  • new Amtrak ALC-42 Siemens Charger diesel-electric locomotives with higher performance and lower emissions will begin to replace the current long-distance locomotive fleet this year 
  • improved lounge experiences for all private-room customers - including the debut of the Metropolitan Lounge in the Moynihan Train Hall at New York Penn Station, and 
  • enhancements to the Auto Train customer experience. 

“Offering daily long-distance service represents a vital step in our road to recovery,” says Amtrak CEO, Mr Bill Flynn. “Recognising the immense value of our employees, we’d like to thank congress for enabling service restoration and helping us recall furloughed employees. We thank senate majority leader, Mr Chuck Schumer, and house speaker, Ms Nancy Pelosi, and the many champions of Amtrak, on both sides of the aisle, who helped secure $US 1.7bn in federal funding for Amtrak in the American Rescue Plan. This critical funding will benefit the entire Amtrak network, our state and commuter partners, customers and employees.  

“With this support, we can restore daily long-distance service, bring back employees furloughed because of the pandemic and continue our progress on vital capital projects. We will work closely with congress and the Biden administration on next steps for funding to support Amtrak’s long-term growth. Funding options include expanding the Amtrak network through new corridor routes that will create thousands of new jobs, reducing our nation’s carbon footprint and helping the economy recover and flourish in the years ahead.”