January Amtrak Report

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

1) The report is dated March 4, and posted either that day or the morning thereafter. This would be considered early.

2) January is always a tough month. The snow cancellations did havoc with the ridership, and operating ratio dipped to 95% from 102% for the fiscal year so far. Yet, the cancellations caused the expense of operations to drop also and higher fares still caused the revenue to increase so the effect on the budget was only a slight decrease over what had been budgeted and actual improvement on a cash only basis.

3) Amtrak operations for the first four months of FY2014 was $52.5 million better that budget (compared to $55.2 million at the end of December). In figuring cash only items Amtrak is now forecasting a need of Federal Operating funds of $328.8 million down a million from last month. The appropriation for operations is $340 million so despite a bad month Amtrak is still living within its means. February may have been bad but fortunately only lasted 28 days.

On purely GAAP basis Amtrak is running $305.0 million for the fiscal year so far an improvement of $107.9 million over the same period last year.

4) Amtrak did see a regression in the cost recovery of the Food & Beverage operation to 49.6%

5) The number of Product lines showing an operating surplus shrunk to 8 from 12: Acela at $103.3 million, Northeast Regional at $62.2 million, Washington-Newport News at $2.8 million, Washington-Lynchburg at $1.9 million,  Washington-Norfolk at $1.2 million, Carolinian at $0.8 million, Illinois Zephyr at $0.3 million, and NEC Specials slightly into positive territory.

6) Amtrak employment continued to shrink by 68 to 20,092 during January 2014.

7) Amtrak's cash on hand fell by $192.5 million to $252.6 million. In January there are normally reduced revenues, increased expenses and a large amount of debt service to be performed. Cash on hand is still at high level compared to previous years. Restricted cash fell again to $5.448 million (from $5.921 million).

8) Net interest paid in the first four months is $33.6 million better than budget. Amtrak in the spirit of transparency is now calling this category "other expenses". Comparing the first four months of FY2014 with the previous year shows that net interest is $13.4 million improved over that period.

Amtrak got creative with the buyouts of the capital leases that were available in January. It took out a line of credit and used same to eliminate the capital leases. The interest on the line of credit is much less than the interest previously being paid on the capital leases. Amtrak can at any time reduce the borrowings on the line of credit without penalty or increase the borrowings in future months to buy out additional capital leases later this year.

9) In January, long term debt decreased by $73.649 million of which $73.505 million was in Capital Leases and $0.144 million was in Equipment and other debt. Current Maturies, reflecting that new line of credit, increased by $60.544 million. Total Debt is now $1.361 billion.

10) Authorized Capital Spending increased by $3.335 most of which was added to Emergency Management. Forecast spending overall decreased by $7.786 million in which Engineering increased by $3.473 million and Mechanical increased by $2.174 million.

Actual spending on Capital projects so far this year is $303.251 million. The Gateway Project (Concrete Tube under Hudson Yards) was $40.533 million and Acquisitions was $2.174 million. ADA expenditures so far this year have been $10.1 million.

11) Ridership was 10,095,202 for the year so far and 36,671 more than last year. However at the end of December Amtrak was ahead by 127,904 so we can see the overall effect of all the cancellations that took place in January. February was only a little bit better so it is likely that ridership for FY2014 will be about the same as FY2013 when the year is completed. Five product lines are still showing a 10% improvement over FY2013: Special NEC Trains 105.3%, Washington-Norfolk 93.4%, Vermonter 14.7%, Empire Corridor 10.7% and Acela at 10.6%.

12) Engineering replaced 3 turnouts, 1.8 miles of Catenary renewed, and 2 Transformers in January.

13) Mechanical overhauled 12 more Amfleet, 5 Superliners, 1 Horizon Car, and 1 Viewliner.

14) The President released his budget and in it contain a provision to move all surface transportation to a Highway Trust Fund and make it mandatory rather than discretionary. Since that fund goes bankrupt this summer he proposes transfering money from Corporate Tax Reform to the trust fund. If this were passed by both houses of Congress, rail spending in FY2015 would total $4.775 billion to be divided:

Operating Funds and Capital funds to eliminate backlog in state of good repair:

Northeast Corridor                                                  $550 million

State Corridors:                                                      $225 million

Long Distance:                                                       $850 million

National Assets, Legacy Debt, and PTC              $475 million

ADA Compliance at Stations                                 $350 million


A second fund for expansion would have:

Passenger Corridors                                           $1,300 million

Commuter Rail-PTC                                                  $825 million

Local Rail Facilities                                                    $125 million

Planning & Workforce                                                  $75 million


Amtrak should be submitting its own request shortly. Under the agreement between Congressman Ryan and Senator Murray, FY2015 discretionary spending would contain a small increase over FY2014. Russian President Putin, however, has already caused a reevaluation of military spending by the United States and this could add pressure to reduce Amtrak's appropriation rather than increase.


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