The Union Pacific Railroad Tuesday laid off an unspecified number of workers in Bailey Yard’s mechanical department.

Raquel Espinoza, U.P.’s senior director for corporate communications and media relations, confirmed the first job reductions related to the COVID-19 outbreak at the North Platte classification yard, the world’s largest.

“Union Pacific is experiencing volume declines as the COVID-19 pandemic impacts the country,” Espinoza said in a email. “We are operating fewer locomotives and rail cars, requiring us to reduce our workforce in the mechanical department today.”

She declined to say how many jobs were cut, citing the railroad’s policy against providing “location-specific numbers” whenever UP reduces its workforce.

Gary Person, president and CEO of the North Platte Area Chamber & Development Corp., said Tuesday he had feared job cuts were possible in light of others throughout the railroad industry from coronavirus-related slowdowns.

“What business in the country isn’t being impacted right now in the negative sense?” Person said. “The only thing that’s going to cure this is for the country to get back to business.”

Bailey Yard lost about 250 jobs during 2019, based on local estimates, as Union Pacific implemented its “Unified Plan 2020” efficiency plan throughout its 23-state network.

Even so, the yard and its approximately 2,000-person workforce remain critical to the railroad’s operations, U.P. chief operating officer Jim Vena said last summer during a quarterly shareholder “earnings call.”

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