October Amtrak Report


I have read the October report and these are the items I found interesting:

1) The report is dated December 6, 2013 and posted that day. Usually the first two months of a new fiscal year take a while to be posted.

2) October was a very good month from a financial and ridership basis. Despite the federal shutdown which may have reduced demand in the Northeast Corridor and the trailing effects of the electrical outage at Harrison, New York, Amtrak still carried more riders than it did in October of 2012. More important it had a positive operating ratio of 97% (total operating expenses adjusted for depreciation, project related costs covered by Capital funding, non-cash portion of the OPEBs {Other Post Employment Benefits} and the Amtrak Inspector General's Office divided by Total Operating Revenue less State Capital amortization).

3) Amtrak operations for the first month of FY 2014 was $9.4 million better than budget. In figuring only cash items Amtrak is forecasting that for the entire year it will need direct federal appropriations for operations of less than $350 million. For the entire fiscal year of 2013 Amtrak had a cash operating loss of $355 million.

4) Amtrak is benefiting from the state contracts as a number of state product lines are showing an operating surplus. Amtrak has also modified the reporting for the Virginia State product lines by creating a new category Washington-Richmond in addition to Washington-Newport New; Washington-Lynchburg and Washington-Newport News.

5) Ten Product lines are showing an operating surplus for October of $0.1 million or better. These are:  Acela $32.9 million, Northeast Regionals $16.5 million, Washington-Newport News $0.7 million, Washington-Lynchburg $0.4 million, Adirondack $0.3 million, Washington-Norfolk $0.3 million, Piedmont $0.3 million, Northeast Corridor Specials $0.2 million, Carolinian $0.2 million, Vermonter $0.1 million, and Downeaster $0.1 million. Two other product lines have an operating surplus in excess of ZERO but less than $0.1 million:  Kansas City-St. Louis and Chicago-St. Louis. One more line would be profitable except for OPEBs and its share of the Amtrak IG's operations, The Hiawathas. In fact if the OPEBs and the share of the Amtrak IG's operations were not included, the entire Amtrak system would show an operating surplus.

As noted, the category formerly known as OPEBs has been modified to included respective shares of the Amtrak IG's operations. The later is paid for by a separate direct appropriation so it can fall into the cash less basis with the OPEBs.

6) Amtrak employment grew by 37 during October to 20,188.

7) Cash on hand shrunk by $105.8 million to $183.3 million. Amtrak did not receive any direct Federal Appropriations during October. It might have received a tiny Federal Capital Support. With the shutdown over, Amtrak has probably received in November its share of appropriations for the period between October 1, 2013 and mid-January, 2014.

Restricted cash also shrunk to $6.040 million.

8) Net interest paid in October was $2.4 million better than budget. However because of lease buyouts last year which resulted in a negative interest expense for the first few months of last fiscal year, it is running behind by $17.1 million.

9) In October, long term debt decreased by $5.663 million caused by repayments of capital leases of $5.520 million and $0.143 million in reductions of Equipment and other debt. Current maturities however increased by $0.714 million. Total Debt is now $1.392 billion.


10) In absence of an actual THUD Appropriation being passed, Amtrak is authorizing capital expenditures on its legislative request of last February. This amounts $1,304.419 million of which $707.475 million is to be spent on on Engineering projects and $446.815 on Mechanical. The two items I will be following closely this year will be the Gateway project (primarily the concrete shells under Hudson Yards) with authorized spending of $132 million and Acquisitions of $107.891 million.

Amtrak expects to spend of the authorized spending only $1,287.422 million.

Actual spending in October was $84.001 million on direct capital projects. $11.994 was spent on the Gateway Program and a negative expense of $0.121 million (rebate?) occurred on the acquisitions.


11) Ridership was 2,625,820 for October an increase of 97,317 over October 2012. Special NEC Trains helped considerably (the specials that sold out along the Susquehanna River) increasing that total by 1,157.7% over October 2012. Other outstanding increases were the Vermonter at 25.2% , Acela 18.4% and Crescent at 13.6%. The later two were specifically impacted by Hurricane Sandy and track work in the previous year.

12) Engineering replaced a lot of ties but only 1 Turnout and converted one bridge to a ballast base.

13) Mechanical overhauled 10 Amfleet, 9 Superliners, 1 Horizon, 1 Heritage Diner and 1 Viewliner.

14) A Budget Deal was announced by Budget Chairs, Ryan and Murray. That deal does not affect Amtrak except that it increases the amount for discretionary non-defense spending in the house. At this point it is likely that the deal will pass the House. There is much more opposition from Conservatives in the Senate and the Republican minority leader may come out against it. There are defections by Democrats, who are unhappy about Federal Employees paying more for their pensions, could defeat the proposal. However as a conference report, it needs only a majority to pass and is not subject to a filibuster. In the event that the deal is defeated, the Republicans will pass another continuing resolution with sequestration eating further into the appropriations.  Amtrak is likely to get close to its 2013 appropriations in either case.

Steve Musen

Rhode Island Representative to the National Association of Railroad Passengers' Council of Representatives