Amtrak suspends nonstop DC-NYC Acela service as virus fears slash demand

Amtrak will cancel its nonstop Acela service between D.C. and New York City through late May, citing tumbling demand as the U.S. eyes a wide-scale coronavirus outbreak.

Starting Tuesday, March 10, the Acela nonstop service (including trains 2401, 2402 and 2403) between New York City and D.C. will no longer run until Tuesday, May 26. It does not affect Amtrak’s other high-speed Acela service, which runs several times per day between Washington, New York and Boston, with limited stops.

Change fees on all existing or new Amtrak reservations made before April 30, 2020, will also be waived to accommodate passengers worried about the virus.

In a news release announcing the suspension, Amtrak said other changes — such as reducing cars, altering schedules or cancelling more train services — are possible as the operator grapples with reduced demand.

Amtrak announced measures intended to safeguard the health of its passengers and employees, including more frequent cleaning on trains and stations, making sanitizers and disinfectants more readily available, and reviewing good hygiene practices with workers.

“We are closely monitoring the coronavirus and are taking action based on guidance from public health experts,” Amtrak said, adding there are no current travel restrictions.

Wariness to the infectious disease may stem the company’s increasingly positive outlook that had Acela leading the way in the last half of 2019.

Amtrak announced that it saw a record 32.5 million passengers following the conclusion of its 2019 fiscal year. Acela’s saw the largest ridership among Amtrak’s services at 4.3%, a sizeable chunk of the 800,000 more passengers that used Amtrak compared to 2018.

Acela’s growth motivated Amtrak to try the nonstop service from DC to New York City in July and tease a roll out of larger, faster trains for the rail line in January.

The company expected to break even in fiscal year 2020 after consecutive years of operating losses.

WTOP’s Alejandro Alvarez and Jeff Clabaugh contributed to this report.

Matthew Delaney

Matt Delaney is a digital web writer/editor who joined WTOP in 2020.

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