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October: National Network Results Still Strong

November 20, 2020

Long-distance National Network trains remained resilient contributors to Amtrak’s beleaguered balance sheet in September and October, contributing the largest single share of the railroad’s ticket revenues for seven months in a row.

For the calendar year through October, Amtrak’s total ticket and passenger revenues are off 67% from year-ago levels, coming in at about $642 million compared with nearly $2 billion at through October last year. Since the coronavirus pandemic began, Amtrak ticket and passenger revenues are down 81% compared with the like period a year ago – Northeast Corridor “COVID period” revenues are down 89% while state-supported services are down 81% and National Network is down 60%.

National Network ridership in September, the last month before Amtrak imposed three-times daily service nationwide, was down only 50% from year-earlier levels. Given that Amtrak is limiting bookings to only 50% of its capacity to help passengers maintain social distancing safety measures, it would be fair to conclude that long-distance ridership demand was essentially at last year’s levels.

Even including October’s drastically reduced service levels, the National Network trains continued to be the largest single contributor of ticket and passenger revenue at nearly $19 million for the month. The three-times weekly service model clearly showed through, however, given that the National Network’s ticket and passenger revenue was the lowest it had been since May.

The National Network of long-distance trains accounts for 45% of Amtrak’s ticket and passenger revenue booked during the coronavirus pandemic, and nearly a third after including the pre-pandemic revenue months going back to January.

For the calendar year through October overall ridership is down 67%, with healthy January and February figures helping to offset the pandemic’s effects for the full-year results. Since the coronavirus pandemic began, overall ridership is down 81%. Ridership declines are worse in the Northeast Corridor at 86%, compared with 81% for state-supported services and 64% for the National Network.