Amtrak bookings plunge 50%, cancellations soar amid coronavirus concerns

Amtrak’s bookings have plunged and cancellations have soared amid concerns about the coronavirus, and the company told its employees Wednesday to expect “significant reductions” in train service and voluntary, unpaid leave.

a train is parked on the side of a road: A railroad crossing in Ventura.

A railroad crossing in Ventura.

In an email Wednesday, Gardner said bookings are down 50%, while cancellations are up 300%.

“Our ridership and revenue have declined sharply over the past few weeks, both on the Northeast Corridor and across the national network,” Gardner wrote. “These reductions have accelerated in recent days and will likely continue for some time.”

So far, Amtrak has only canceled three nonstop Acela trains on the Northeast Corridor in response to reduced demand, out of the hundreds of trains it operates nationwide each day. Gardner told employees that further cuts were coming and that those considered “non-mission critical” would be asked to take unpaid time off on a voluntary basis.

“You should expect significant reductions in train service across portions of our network in response to the sharp drop in ridership,” Gardner wrote.

Amtrak, which transported a record 32.5 million passengers last year and was on a path to financial stability, is bracing for steep losses in revenue, Gardner wrote.

“At this rate, we believe we will likely suffer the loss of several hundred million dollars in revenue during this fiscal year,” Gardner wrote, “and we might lose more.”

Amtrak is waiving change fees for bookings made before April 30. The railroad is also increasing the frequency of cleaning on its trains and in its stations and is making more hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes available to passengers and employees. 

Amtrak said on Sunday that a passenger who had been on a train from Chicago to St. Louis last week had tested positive for the coronavirus. The railroad said it had notified passengers and employees who were on the train and taken the train out of service to clean and disinfect it. It also said it was cleaning and disinfecting the stations in both cities.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Amtrak bookings plunge 50%, cancellations soar amid coronavirus concerns

WATCH: Amtrak waives change fees, ups its cleaning protocol (provided by Travel + Leisure)

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