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Alaska Railroad rolls into new season, hopeful it will improve from 2020

Anchorage KTUU-TV logo Anchorage KTUU-TV 6/3/2021 Dave Leval
a group of people walking down a street next to a train: Passengers board the train bound for first summer trip to Seward on Saturday, May 29, 2021. © Dave Leval Passengers board the train bound for first summer trip to Seward on Saturday, May 29, 2021.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Passengers filled up the cars for the Alaska Railroad’s first trip of the summer season to Seward on Saturday. Many were making their first trips to the state, including the Reddy family from Jackson, Mississippi.

“It’s been spectacular. We wanted to take the Kenai Fjord tour, and this was a great way to do both in one day,” said Mona Reddy. “We just came off the Denali tour, and we came here. It’s different. You have the water, you have the Turnagain Arm, it’s neat. It’s a really neat experience.”

The Alaska Railroad hopes for a much different season compared to a year ago, when only 32,000 people rode it, a 94% reduction from 2019.

The line also suffered a net loss last year of close to $8 million. The Alaska Railroad released those numbers in its annual report back in April. Cash reserves allowed it to survive during the pandemic.

The pandemic was also cited as a reason for a 26% reduction in the tonnage of cargo carried in 2020 compared to the previous year.

Things look to be vastly improved this season.

“On day one of the season, we have more than doubled our bookings for 2021 as we have for all of our 2020 summer season,” said Meghan Clemens, marketing communications manager for Alaska Railroad.

The new season did get off to a slightly later start due to the lack of cruise ships.

Late is not how to describe the train as it arrives in Seward after its four-hour journey with its first load of summer passengers. Following a very bad year, the Alaska Railroad appears to be back on track.

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