Amtrak is getting ready to cut back on its services due in part to the enforcement of its vaccine mandate early next year.

Amtrak’s vaccine mandate is scheduled to be implemented January 4, and a spokesman for the company reportedly said that its rule will stay even if the federal vaccine mandate attempted by the Biden Administration is still barred by the courts. 

Amtrak President Stephen Gardner discussed the upcoming setbacks in written testimony for a hearing before the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials on Thursday. 

Gardner noted that 94% of the workers are fully vaccinated, and 96% have gotten at least one dose, but added that those “numbers do not include employees who are on leave of absence or have an approved accommodation.”

“As part of addressing the challenges presented by COVID-19, Amtrak must comply with the federal mandate effective January 4, 2022 that employees of government contractors be fully vaccinated,” he noted.

Gardner added that “because many engineers, conductors and on-board service employees retired or left Amtrak during the pandemic, and we temporarily halted hiring due to funding uncertainty and covid-related distancing requirements that inhibited training, we anticipate that we will not initially have enough employees to operate all the trains we are currently operating when the federal mandate takes effect. … This will likely necessitate temporary frequency reductions, primarily for our long-distance services.”

He also explained how this fallout will mostly be experienced “across our long-distance services because of the relatively small crew bases at intermediate points. … At some of these crew bases across our network, we have a relatively high percentage of unvaccinated employees.”

Gardner added that if those workers do not get vaccinated by the scheduled date, the company will not have enough workers who are able to perform the necessary functions. 

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki also commented on the company’s discussion.

“We don’t expect these requirements will cause disruptions to services that people depend on,” Psaki told reporters. “There is some time to implement it. We are of course working with all federal contractors and federal employees and parts of the federal government to implement this going forward.”

As reported by The Wall Street Journal, “Amtrak has 15 long-distance routes, which carried 14% of Amtrak’s passengers during its 2019 fiscal year, according to the company.”

The Journal added, “Amtrak’s ridership was 12.2 million in its 2021 fiscal year, compared with 32.5 million in fiscal year 2019, an Amtrak spokesman said. For the 2020 fiscal year, ending Sept. 30, Amtrak carried 16.8 million passengers. … Amtrak currently has nearly 18,000 employees, a spokesman said. It had 18,600 employees at the end of 2019 fiscal year, according to its 2019 fiscal-year company profile.”

report by the Office of the Inspector General from the National Railroad Passenger Corporation also noted another potential issue – the “Human Resources department does not have sufficient leadership or staff to effectively recruit, screen, hire, and onboard new employees, which will likely hinder the company’s plans to add 2,500 to 3,500 new employees in FY 2022.”

Earlier this week, a federal judge in Georgia blocked the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for federal contractors. 

The Daily Wire reported: 

According to Bloomberg, the judge halted the mandate nationwide, which was originally mandated by President Joe Biden in September. The decision follows a preliminary injunction issued by a federal judge in Kentucky, who was presiding over a case involving Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee.

The mandate would have taken effect on January 4th, and would have affected about 25% of the U.S. workforce, including employees of companies like Lockheed Martin, Microsoft, Google, and General Motors, Bloomberg reported.

The mandate was opposed by a number of states almost immediately after it was signed, including Arizona, Florida, Texas, Oklahoma, and Georgia.

The Biden administration’s mandate for private companies with more than 100 employees has also been suspended. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled an injunction against the mandate. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals is currently considering a lawsuit brought by the Daily Wire and numerous other companies challenging the mandate.

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