April Amtrak Report

These are the things I found interesting in this month's report.

1) The report is dated May 30, 2014 but was not posted until this afternoon (June 2, 2014). This is early but comparable to previous months.

2) This is the third month in a row that the Chief Engineer's report has been omitted. Hopefully he has been busy.

3) Ridership continues to lag behind the comparable period for last year. As of April 30, 2014 it was 393,608 less than last year. For the year to date the total ridership is 17,357,679.

Ridership is being hurt by the meltdown of timekeeping on the long distance trains, particularly the Empire Builder. However the California Zephyr also had a rough patch at the end of May where it was consistently more than 4 hour late Eastbound. Amtrak also claims it is facing competition from buses and cut rate Airlines along the Northeast Corridor and major state corridors.

4) On the otherhand, Amtrak has been meeting its financial operating goals. Operation to date at the end of April were $91.4 million better than budget. Net Interest is now $49.5 million better than budget. Amtrak estimates that the cash requirement for operations for the entire year ending September 30, 2014 will be $311.4 million which is $7 million better than the estimate at the end of March. The cost recovery of the year so far is 96.0% and Food and Beverage recovery is edging up to 49.1%.

The Gaap loss for the year to date is $576.2 million which is $167.8 million better than last year.

Another interesting statistic is cash on hand. At the end of April, Amtrak was holding the sum of $446.4 million an increase of $75.5 million over the end of March, 2014. The DOT IG has recomended in the past that Amtrak retain a minimum of $200 million in cash and equivalents. Amtrak has stated that it felt it should be maintain an average $300 million in Working Capital. Working Capital is short assets minus short term liabilities. So on both counts Amtrak is in good financial shape.

5) The number of product lines with an operating surplus decreased from 8 to 7. These were (after any state payments were added): Acela $182.6 million, Northeast Regionals $103.1 million, Washington-Lynchburg $2.8 million, Washington-Newport News $2.5 million, Washington-Norfolk $1.5 million, The Carolinian $1.5 million and the Vermonter $0.2 million. Washington-Richmond showed a slight loss preventing Viriginia from having a perfect record.

6) Two product lines had ridership increases of more than 10% over last year: Special NEC Trains at 109.3% and Washington-Norfolk at +40.0%.

7) Long term debt decreased by $20.201 million of which $15.978 million was in Capital Leases, $3.329 million in Mortgages and $0.893 million in Equipment and Other Debt. Current Maturities decreased by $2.266 million. Total Debt is now $1.356 billion.

8)  In March, the Mechanical Department overhauled 14  Amfleets, 8 Superliners, 4 Horizons and 1 Viewliner.

9) The Capital Budget increased authorized spending by $28.259 million, while the biggest increase was for stations . Forecasted spending for the entire FY 2014 decreased by $18.601 million. The Viewliner order is now forecast (over last month) to be increased by $93,000.

Amtrak has spent General Capital so far this fiscal year $589.942 million. Of that $73.787 million has been spent on the concrete shell under the Hudson Yards and $3.786 million on the new Viewliner Order. ADA Expenditures have edged up to $15.1 million so far. Amtrak maintains separate funds for borrowed capital such as the loan for the electric locomotives.

10) Employment at Amtrak increased in April by 61 persons to 20,394.

11) The House THUD committee sent their appropriation bill to the full committee. The bill was appropriatly named this year with Amtrak getting $350 million in operations (same as last year) but only $840 million in Capital. The House may approve the bill this coming week. The $840 million is not quite a shut down amount, but it will significantly increase the backlog of deferred maintenance.

The Senate THUD Committee draft bill has a total of $1.39 billion which is the exact amount it had this year. Presumeably it has $350 million for Operations and $1,050 million for General Capital and Debt Maintenance. The problem is that even if the Senate passes the full amount a conference bill with the House is likely to be compromise between the two figures. Most of us would agree that the current level of capital funding is inadequate, and does not allow any new major initiatives.

More ACS-64 Sprinters were supposed to arrive. Unfortunately, the wheels on two them locked up while being transported between Chicago and Washington. The locked wheels being pushed hundreds of miles caused major damage to the wheels and probably most of the truck assembly. This story will eventually result in major ramifications for the car inspector who approved the transport after the heat in the wheels was noticed at two locations (Cleveland and Pittsburgh) and for the manager of that inspector.

A CAV baggage car was delivered to Amtrak . One down and 129 more to go.

Amtrak cancelled the Empire Builder for the first four days of June from Minot to St. Paul with a few days notice and without substitute transportation. Worse it gave the impression to passengers that the entire train was cancelled so even passengers whose portion of the train was still running got cancellation notices.


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