February Amtrak Report

1) The report is dated March 27, 2014 which is early.

2) The cancellations on the Northeast Corridor and the delayed long distance trains have taken their toll on ridership. The year to date as of February 28, 2014 is running 87,183 behind last year. Of course last year February had 29 days in it, but I do not think that makes up the whole difference. At the end of January, the year to date was about 30,000 ahead so in terms of ridership, February was not a good month in this category.

3) On the other hand Amtrak continues to meet its financial goals. Yearly operations at the end of February were $64.3 million better than budget and an inprovement over the end of January.  Net Interest is now $35.4 million less than budget. Amtrak estimates that the cash requirement for operations for the entire year ending on September 30 will be $335.4 million which compares favorably with the $340 million appropriation. Actually, I think they are a little bit conservative on this. The cost recovery of the year so far is 93% and Food and Beverages are recovering 48.5%.

The Gaap loss for the year to date is $421.6 million which is $122.3 million better than the budget.

4) As would be expected with the cancellations because of winter weather, the number of product lines with operating surplus continues to shrink. The following still show surpluses: Acela $125.9 million, NE Regionals $69.5 million, Washington-Lynchburg $2.1 million, Washington-Newport News $1.3 million, Washington-Norfolk $1.3 million, and the Carolinian $0.7 million.

5) Product lines with ridership increases of more than 10% over last year are down to three: Special NEC Trains +89.5%, Washington-Norfolk +71.8%, and the Vermonter +14.9%.

6) Debt continues to be reduced with long term debt decreasing by $5.972 million in February (of which $4.184 million was in capital leases and $1.789 million in Equipment and other debt) while current maturities increased $1.574 million. Total Debt is now $1.356 billion.

7) There was no Engineering Report for February, considering all the snow this is not surprising.

8) In February, the Mechanical Department overhauled 11 Amfleet, 6 Superliners, 3 Horizons, 2 Heritage Diners, 1 Viewliner, and 1 Surfliner. The total number of Heritage Diners now exceed the entire year's goal by one with seven months remain in this fiscal year.

9) On the other hand the Capital Budget of forecast spending has gone down by $62.5 million with most of that coming from Acquistions.

In the case of spending so far, Amtrak has spent a total of $368.393 million. Of that $50.877 million has been spent on the concrete shell under the Hudson Yards and only $2.451 million on Acquisitions. ADA Expenditures have edged up to $11.8 million so far.

10) Employment at Amtrak increased slightly (by 19 hires) to 20,111.

11) In Amtrak news, the 2015 Budget request was announced. Amtrak is looking for $1.6 billion with no major new initiatives to be commenced. Additional Sprinter Electric Locomotives have been shipped east, but no announcements have been made about more than 2 of them entering active service. Siemens the manufacturer of the Sprinter won the contract to build a diesel equivalent for the Midwest and California Corridors but that award is being challenged in court by GE.

The reduction in the forecast spending on Acquisitions makes it clear that a reduced number of new Viewliners (Sleepers, Diners and Baggage) will arrive during the remainder of this fiscal year. Hopefully some will appear on the Corridor soon.

The real improvements will take place this year on the state-suported corridors such as between Rennselear and Schnectady. But we will have to wait for the snow to go away before serious construction take place.

Steve Musen

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