RENSSELAER, N.Y. (NEWS10) — All aboard, or, maybe not. Amtrak is cutting back on some services nationwide, including two that serve New York State and the Capital Region.

Frequent Amtrak travelers, check the timetable before your next trip, because starting Monday, some Empire Service and Lake Shore Limited trains will no longer be running, according to the railroad company. “That means I’m going to have to hop on a 6-hour bus instead of a two and a half hour train ride which is going to be really inconvenient,” says Mekhi Ellis, a student at the University at Albany.

The reason? Staff challenges brought on by COVID-19. Amtrak says trains 234 and 256 originating at Albany-Rensselaer and trains 241 and 261 originating from New York City are suspended on the Empire Service. Trains 49, 449, 48, and 448 of the Lake Shore Limited are only suspended on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

In a statement, Amtrak Public Relations Manager Jason Abrams tells News10:

“While nearly 97% of Amtrak employees are fully vaccinated, several hundred of our on-board service personnel, conductors, engineers, and mechanical crews continue to be impacted by Covid infections or exposures, particularly given the highly infectious nature of the new variant and the prevalence of breakthrough cases.  We anticipate that Covid-related impacts to staffing will continue to impact parts of Amtrak`s network and the availability of our fleet in the near term as the surge of Omicron cases impacts  the nation. These Covid-related absences, when combined with the general skilled workforce shortage Amtrak and other transportation companies are facing, have reduced our ability to consistently deliver our current schedules and impacted the pace of hiring and training efforts.

“To ensure safe, reliable service and minimize unplanned service interruptions for our customers, we are suspending eight percent of our train departures over the next ten weeks. During this time, we are working to continue our efforts to fill vacant positions and train new employees in order to avoid staffing shortfalls due to unplanned absences.   As overall staffing and equipment availability levels improve, we will look for opportunities to restore service levels faster where possible.

“To minimize inconvenience to passengers, Amtrak will proactively work to rebook customers on remaining frequencies on all routes and ensure that all routes retain sufficient frequencies to cover anticipated demand.   Given the recent roughly 25% reduction in customer demand now occurring because of the Omicron variant and typical season travel patterns, we expect minimal impacts to overall ridership because of these temporary changes. 

“Most customers impacted by these service reductions will be offered same-day travel alternatives. For impacted customers without a same-day option, re-accommodation will be offered within one day of original departure date. Customers impacted by Silver Meteor suspension will have same-day alternatives on other Amtrak services including Silver Star, Palmetto, Carolinian and Northeast Regional.”

Steve Strauss with the Empire State Passengers Association says he does not believe this interruption will have a significant impact on ridership, but, it could be a nuisance for some saying, “it does increase the inconvenience to customers because it takes out some of their options. We’re losing two round trips a day between Albany and New York. You just have fewer and fewer options.” 

With the hope that COVID conditions improve by spring time, Amtrak says they plan to resume the suspended services by late March and early April.