Alaska Railroad Cutting Over 50 Jobs

The Alaska Railroad is cutting more than 50 jobs in an effort to trim the corporation’s costs as federal grants and revenue decline sharply.

About half of the jobs are already vacant. Christopher Aadnesen is President of the Alaska Railroad. He says the cuts will come from all areas of the company, but more than 1/3 of the jobs lost are in management.

“Maybe the best way to explain it is to give you an example, my direct reports have gone from 13 to 6 and we’ve taken out lots of management positions, many of them senior management positions,” Aadnesen said.

Aadnesen says one of the company’s main revenue sources comes from shipping coal, but the railroad is operating just two coal trains a week, down from four last year, because the international coal market has weakened. Grant funding from the Federal Transit Administration has also declined sharply. Combine that with an unfunded federal mandate to implement a new safety system and Aadnesen says it adds up to a $45 million hit to the corporation.

Besides the job cuts, Aadnesen says the railroad is trimming millions of dollars by conserving fuel, changing the way it maintains vehicles, and reforming other out of date practices.

“So we have changed the company so it looks very different from the inside, but shouldn’t look different from the outside, to passengers, freight shippers, the public, hoping that as we go forward we will be nimble enough and lowered the cost base of the company enough where we can weather additional storms that may come along while we look for and hope for revenue increases to come back to get us out of this challenge,” Aadnesen said.

Since 2009, the railroad has cut nearly 300 positions out of a workforce of about 900 employees.

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Annie Feidt is the Editor and Producer of Alaska News Nightly, and is also a frequent contributor to the show. Her reporting has taken her searching for polar bears on the Chukchi Sea ice, out to remote checkpoints on the Iditarod Trail, and up on the Eklutna Glacier with scientists studying its retreat. Her stories have been heard nationally on NPR and Marketplace.

Annie’s career in radio journalism began in 1998 at Minnesota Public Radio, where she produced the regional edition of All Things Considered. She moved to Anchorage in 2004 with her husband, intending to stay in the 49thstate just a few years. She has no plans to leave anytime soon.

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