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Daily Amtrak Service Returns To Tampa And Lakeland In June

Amtrak passengers boarding a train
Chuck Gomez/Amtrak
Amtrak requires passengers to wear face coverings while on board. The company scaled back service during the pandemic but will resume daily trips to and from Florida June 7.

The pandemic forced the company to reduce routes and furlough workers last year.

Amtrak’s Silver Star train will once again operate seven days week, the company said on Thursday.

Just like the airline industry, Amtrak has contended with thumping financial losses from the coronavirus pandemic — ridership dropped 95% in March 2020 alone.

The company said 1,200 workers were furloughed, and it pruned long-distance routes. The Tampa-to-New York Silver Star and the Miami-to-New York Silver Meteor were cut to three days a week. The Sanford-to-Lorton, Va., Auto Train continued to operate daily.

Daily service will resume on the Star and Meteor on June 7, thanks to about $1.5 billion in Amtrak funding included in the American Rescue Plan, which President Biden signed into law Thursday.

“Offering daily long-distance service represents a vital step in our road to recovery,” Amtrak CEO Bill Flynn said in a statement. “Recognizing the immense value of our employees, we’d like to thank Congress for enabling service restoration and helping us recall furloughed employees.”

According to Amtrak data, 110,309 people traveled by train to and from Tampa’s Union Station in 2019. The Lakeland station served 19,186 passengers that year.

Despite the service restoration, Flynn warned in a recent CNBC interview that ridership will stay below pre-pandemic levels for a while longer.

“We're anticipating a run rate of about 35, 36% of normal ridership [during the summer months] and then hopefully growing into calendar fourth quarter and into 2022,” he said.

Bradley George was a Morning Edition host and reporter at WUSF until March 2022.