The operator will receive technical guidance from the institute’s Department of Environmental and Occupational Health. This will include reviews of safe work practices and return-to-work plans and guidance for employees, managers and facility operators, as well as Amtrak’s hygiene and sanitisation policies in trains, stations and other facilities.

In addition, the institute will monitor regional and national data sources to anticipate and respond to transmission trends and provide evidence-based hygiene advice to aid the implementation of new workplace and operational practices which exceed the latest public health guidelines.

The collaboration will supplement Amtrak’s existing efforts to minimise viral transmission on its services. This currently includes requiring face coverings, as well as enhanced cleaning protocols, contactless amenities, social distancing on trains and in stations, and air filtration.

“Amtrak’s commitment to maintain a workplace that promotes rigorous health and safety measures is impressive,” says Ms Melissa Perry, professor and chair of the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health. “We look forward to sharing knowledge and data to help Amtrak navigate this ever-changing environment as a result of the widespread coronavirus.”

“To continue providing service across 46 states, we need to be aware of the impact of the coronavirus as well as best practices, regional disparities and evolving guidance from health officials,” says Mr Steve Predmore, Amtrak’s executive vice-president and chief safety officer. “The extensive expertise within the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health will augment our internal health and safety team as we continue to make decisions to protect customers and our employees who serve them.”

High standards of hygiene are a key part of Amtrak's strategy to encourage passengers back onto its services after a drop in patronage across the American rail network of up to 90% in March following the coronavirus pandemic outbreak.