August Amtrak Report

I have read the August Report and these are the items I find interesting:


1) The report is dated October 3, 2014 and put on the Amtrak Web Site on October 6, 2014. This would be normal for earlier in the year but much later than in the past few months.

2) Ridership continues to decline compared to last year's record total. The Deficit is now 718,109. The actual ridership for the first 11 months was 28,401,683 so it is very likely that the total for FY 2014 will exceed 30 million.

3) Amtrak's operating ratio in August was 104% (meaning it covered all of its cash operating expenses during the month plus). For the year to date the operating ratio is 98%. However with September usually carrying less riders than August, the ratio will probably not change for the entire year.

At the end of August, Amtrak was $173.0 million better than budget with a GAAP loss of $877.9 million. Net Interest is $33.6 million better than budget. For the full fiscal year, Amtrak is now forecasting a cash loss of $189.9 million (an improvement of $10.9 million of the previous month's annual forecast.

Food and Beverage Recovery also improved to 51.4%,

On a GAAP basis, the year to date is $180.7 million better over FY 2013.

4) The number of product lines with an operating surplus is still 9:

Acela                                               $282.5 million

Northeast Regionals                      $166.9 million

Washington-Newport News           $    6.0 million

Washington-Lynchburg                  $    3.7 million

Carolianian                                      $    2.3 million

Washington-Norfolk                       $     1.5 million

Vermonter                                      $     1.2 million

Maple Leaf                                     $      0.9 million

Adirondack                                     $      0.4 million

The Non-NEC Special Trains almost broke even.

5) Two product lines still have ridership increases over last year in excess of 10%: 

Special NEC Trains                             99.3%

Washington-Norfolk                             19.8%

6) Long Term debt increased $32.969 million as another $34.494 million was added to the RRIF Loan for the electric locomotives. However there was a decrease of $0.487 million in Capital Leases and $0.038 million in Equipment and other debt. Current Maturies also decreased by $12.342 million. Total Debt is now $1.386 billion.

7) The Chief Engineer's report shows 1.0 miles of Catenary Renewed and 10.9 miles of Signal Cable added during August.

8) In August, the Mechanicial Department over hauled 14 Amfleet, 13 Superliners, 2 Horizons, and 1 Viewliner. 

9) The capital budget increased authorized spending by $0.885 million with $0.2 million allocated to Finance and Treasury and the balance to Engineering. Forecast spending for the entire year decreased by $6.512 million with Engineering losing $9.991 million while Mechanical increased by $16.228 million. Forecast spending on Acquisitions decreased by $0.578 million.

Actual spending was $1,035.538 million in the first 11 months of the fiscal year.  The Gateway Concrete Shell under Hudson Yards was $117.541 million, Acquisitions (The Viewliner Order) was $5.977 million, and ADA was $23.1 million.

10) Employment at Amtrak decreased by another 58 employees to 20,245.

11) Congress passed an interim continuous resolution which will last until shortly after the elections.

#623 of the ACS 64 Sprinters has been spotted on its way to the east coast. This means that 24 of the 70 contracted locomotives are either in service or on their way to the Northeast Corridor. HHP-8 (The double ended locomotives) have largely disappeared from active use with only two still being spotted.

For a limited time the Capitol Limited and the Lake Shore Limited were annulled between Toledo and Chicago. Amtrak has not posted details on their web site, "De Luxe" Buses were used to ferry passegers between Toledo and Chicago.

On the other hand, the Zephyr has been improving east bound over the last few days and even arrived early on October 9, 2014. The Empire Builder has made some improvement but still averages 3 hours lateness into Chicago.

There are major concerns about the tunnels between Manhattan and New Jersey as well two of the four between Manhattan and Sunnyside Yard in the Queens. When Sandy flooded those tunnels, it left a residue of salts which cannot be removed without major reconstruction of each tunnel. (Litterally removing the entire surface of the walls and floors of the tunnels along with the track bed). These salts continue to erode critical elements in the tunnel. Insurance will cover the cost of reconstruction, but each tunnel has to be taken out of service for up to a year for the work to be done. With the East River Tunnels there are two others available so it can be done, But the tubes under the Hudson would be almost impossible to do if one of them is removed for an entire year. This is causing new urgency in constructing the additional two tubes contained in the Gateway Plan. Of course, no money is available for this work other than a limited amount of planning funds.

The NEC Futures is resuming public meetings with Providence having a hearing on  November 12, 2014. The location in Providence will be the Rhode Island Convention Center on One Sabin Street from 4-7 PM.

Steve Musen

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