NNEPRA’s Response to the Pandemic
Safety and health of passengers and crew remain top priority.
Over the past few months transit agencies across the country and globe, including NNEPRA, have been impacted by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
After a sharp decline in Downeaster ridership beginning in mid-March and restrictions on travel, the difficult decision to temporarily suspend Downeaster operations was made by the NNEPRA Board on April 10 and implemented on April 13.
Gradual return of service is anticipated and dependent upon state and federal requirements. The NNEPRA Board met on June 8 and approved Phase I of the Downeaster Service Restoration and Recovery Plan; reinstating one daily round trip between Brunswick and Boston daily.
Lost ticket revenue and funding to assist in the return of service when restrictions are lifted will be supported by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), a federal stimulus package passed in late March for public transit agencies and operating assistance for Amtrak.
Since mid-March, the NNEPRA Team has adapted to remote work environments and has remained actively focused on the days beyond these troubling times with the safety of passengers and crews being a top priority.
Amtrak has nationally embraced and implemented enhanced cleaning, disinfecting and equipment sanitizing protocols as well as social distancing and public health guidelines. These new practices will be evident on Downeaster trains when service resumes:
- Crews and passengers travelling on Amtrak trains are required to wear face coverings.
- Enhanced cleaning protocols are in place.
- No more than 50% of seats can be sold on any train.
- Amtrak’s eTicketing allows for a touchless environment for passengers.
- Modifications will be made to on-board food service.
Downeaster stations are being thoroughly cleaned and equipped with information and resources consistent with social and physical distancing guidelines set forth by the CDC in preparation of eventual re-opening.
Various track maintenance project scheduled for summer and fall have been re-programmed to take place in spring and early summer to minimize construction-related service interruptions later in the year. Planning activities related to the Portland Station Relocation and new equipment procurement are ongoing, as are efforts to begin work on the Wells Siding Project.