Amtrak said on Friday it will temporarily cut service on some trains due to staffing problems due to an increase in cases of the Omicron variant among employees.
While nearly 97 percent of Amtrak employees are fully vaccinated, hundreds of employees — including service personnel, conductors, engineers and mechanical crew members — have been sidelined due to Covid-19 infections or exposures, officials said. The agency will suspend 8 percent of its train departures for the next 10 weeks.
“These Covid-related absences, coupled with the general skilled labor shortage faced by Amtrak and other transportation companies, have reduced our ability to consistently deliver on our current schedules and impacted the pace of recruiting and training efforts,” Jason Abrams, an Amtrak spokesman, said in a statement.
The reductions will affect the Northeast Regional route, where 8 percent of weekly departures between January 24 and March 27 will be suspended. Amtrak will also reduce some of its long-haul services and suspend 6 percent of its weekly departures on state-supported routes from Jan. 18 to March 27.
Amtrak said it is working on a solution to the problem, including by trying to hire more employees and train new staff members to “avoid staff shortages due to unplanned absences,” the statement said.
Travelers affected by service reductions will be offered same-day travel alternatives and customers will be notified of changes, according to the statement.
The suspensions follow previous service cuts, both weather and Covid-related, that Amtrak instituted between New Year’s Eve and January 6. Last month, officials took an optimistic note, saying they could likely avoid cuts to services after dropping a mandate for all workers to be vaccinated against Covid-19. The agency had dropped the mandate after a federal court decision halted enforcement of the executive order for federal contractors.
Jim Mathews, the president and chief executive officer of the Rail Passengers Association, said the agency’s decision to cut service reflected how the virus continued to disrupt daily lives and travel plans for Americans.
“This is a nationwide problem, not just an Amtrak problem, and we are encouraged to see Amtrak trying to make the smallest possible cuts to get the railroad through,” said Mr. Mathews.