These are the things I found interesting in this month's report:
1) The report is dated July 31, 2014 and posted late that evening. This is fairly early.
2) Ridership continues to lag behind the comparable period for last year. The deficit in riders as of June 30, 2014 continues to grow and now stands at 605,780. At this rate, the final total on September 30 could be a million less riders than in fiscal 2013, and would be less than fiscal 2012 as well.
There are many reasons for the lag. The most obvious is the continual lateness of the trains especially the long distance. However, competition from low cost buses and the start up of weekend service on the MARC Washington-Baltimore Line as well as the high prices of coach seats on the Northeast Corridor are contributing factors.
3) On the other hand Amtrak continues to meet operating income and expense goals. At the end of June, Amtrak was $150.7 million ahead of budget with a GAAP Loss of $730.1 million. Net Interest is still better than budget by $21.9 million. However when non-cash items are taken away, Amtrak actually showed an operating surplus in June for the entire system. For the full current fiscal year ending September 30, 2014 Amtrak is now forecasting the cash requirement for operations to be only $233.3 million. This is an improvement of $60.1 million over the previous forecast. Who knew you could save so much money by eliminating flowers in the diner? Actually this is in line with the States now picking up so much of the operating costs of the corridor trains.
Cost recovery for the year so far has edged up to 97.0% and Food & Beverage recovery is now at 50.3%.
The GAAP loss is $205.7 million improvement for the same period in the previous year.
4) The number of product lines with operating surplus remain at 7 with the Adirondack showing a break even situation and the Maple Leaf meeting all costs except for OPEBs and its share of the Amtrak IG. The seven with positive results are:
Acela $241.3 million
Northeast Regionals $137.8 million
Washington-Newport News $ 4.1 million
Washington-Lynchburg $ 2.8 million
Carolinian $ 1.8 million
Washington-Norfolk $ 1.2 million
Vermonter $ 0.5 million
5) Two product lines had ridership increases of more than 10% over last year: Special NEC Trains at 111.6% and Washington-Norfolk at 27.2%.
6) There was a major change in long term debt. Amtrak took out two lines of long term credit totalling $175 million. It used the money to pay off the bridge loan (which in turn was used to redeem equipment lease buyouts) and to paydown other long term and short debt. Cash reserves also were increased. The bridge loan was deemed a current maturity. The long term lines of credit were included into Equipment and other debt.
As a result Long Term debt increased by $45.338 million of which $175.693 million was an increase in Equipment and other debt offset by reductions of $13.825 million in Capital Leases, $12.800 million in the mortgage on Penn Station in New York and $14.568 million in the RIFF Loan. This is the first reduction in the RIFF Loan balance since it was started. Current Maturities were decreased by $89.568 million. Total Debt is $1.404 billion.
7) The Chief Engineer's report shows that in June, there were 9 additional turnouts rebuilt, 9.5 miles of catenary renewed, and 44.3 miles of Signal Cable laid. Most, if not all, of the Signal Cable was probably on the New Haven to Springfield line.
8) In June, the Mechanical Department overhauled 12 Amfleets, 10 Superliners, 3 Horizons, and 2 Viewliners. Amtrak also took two of the Superliners that were in the wreck category and restored them to active service. However one of them (a transdorm) was then overhauled and included in the above list of overhauls.
9) The Capital Budget increased Authorized Spending by $39.732 million all of which was assigned to Engineering. Almost all of the additional authorized spending was for design work on the New Brunswick-Trenton portion of the high speed line.
Forecast spending for the entire fiscal year was increased by $5.821 million.
The Viewliner order spending in FY2014 is now forecast (over the last month) to further decrease by $0.718 million.
Amtrak has spent so far this fiscal year a total of $790.601 million. Of that $94.306 million has been spent on the concrete shell under the Hudson Yards and $4.577 million on the new Viewliner Order. ADA Expenditures so far this year are $19.5 million.
10) Employment at Amtrak decreased in June by 28 positions to 20,360.
11) There has been absolutely no movement on Amtrak appropriations since the previous report. The Senate almost voted on the Milcon Appropriations (Military Construction and Veterans Affair) but the bill was never offered since the motion refused to allow any amendment to be preposed. It is most likely that on September 29 a continuous resolution will be offered to last beyond the November elections.
There was a short term bill passed to further bail out the Highway Trust fund through May 15, 2015. It is hoped that the lame duck session after the election will pass a longer term bill. NARP is trying hard to get a rail reauthorization included into the long term bill.
18 ACS-64 Sprinters (Electric Locomotives) have now be shipped east with a 19th one at Sacramento awaiting transport. They are starting to appear on the Northeast Corridor in revenue service.
Amtrak's diesel fleet badly needs to be renewed. A number of engine failures have occurred which just makes the on-time performance even worse.
CAF has released to Amtrak three more prototypes (one each of a Sleeper, Baggage Dorm and Diner) for testing. This brings to 4 the number cars received by Amtrak.
State Representative from the State of Rhode Island to the National Association of Railroad Passengers' Council of Representatives