September Amtrak Report

I have read the September report and these are the items I found interesting.

1.       The Report is dated November 13, 2015 but was not posted until today (December 23). This is totally unacceptable.

2.       The month was so-so. The ridership was less than September 2014 and this resulted in the final amount for FY2015 not being a new record total. On the other hand the bottom line was better than what was budgeted.

3.       For the full year Amtrak had a cash loss of $233.8 million (an improvement over the last forecast of $24.6 million). The final figure compares well with the congressional appropriation for the fiscal year of $250 million. However the news release given by Amtrak on December 2, 2015 has an adjusted operating loss of $306.528 million. It may be that the difference in figures (other than “AMTRAK FUZZY ACCOUNTING”) is derived from non-inclusion of State Capital Payments and Project related revenue in total revenue cited in the December 2, 2015 press release. Based on those figures, no bonuses were paid to some of the high ranking Amtrak Officials.

4.       Eight product lines had operating surpluses: Acela $278.0 million, Northeast Regionals $175.1 million, Washington-Newport News $6.0 million, Washington-Lynchburg $3.0 million, Auto Train $2.7 million; Vermonter $1.7 million, Washington-Richmond $0.7 million, Carolinian $0.6 million, and Washington-Norfolk showed a marginal profit between zero and $50,000.00. The Maple Leaf covered all costs except for Other Post-Employment Benefits (OPEBs), Projects, and its share of the Amtrak IG.

5.       Amtrak did not include two items in the September report. The first was the engineer’s report. The second was the balance sheet and profit and loss statement (which it has not been reporting for the full year. However, referring back to the December 2, 2015 press release, we know that on September 30, 2015 Amtrak’s total debt was $1.248043 billion compared to September 30, 2014 of $1.270589 billion a reduction in total debt of $22.546 million. Unfortunately, Amtrak did not breakdown in the press release the long term debt into four or so categories, and debt due within a year is slightly up. Hopefully Amtrak will get around to giving proper monthly reporting of its finances as required by law.

6.       Cash on hand at the end on September 30, 2015 was $527.959 million an increase during the year of $98.769 million. Of the cash on hand on September 30, 2015, $4.978 million was restricted cash.

7.       The Chief Mechanical Officer’s report shows that during the year, it overhauled: 147 Amfleet Cars (98.7% of its budgeted goals), 116 Superliners (106.4%), 24 Horizons (104.3%), 12 Viewliners (100 %), and 5 Surfliners (71.4%). 

8.       As previously mentioned No Chief Engineer’s report was given. However at the end of August, Amtrak had replaced 25 turnouts, 137 feet of bridge deck converted to ballast, 11.9 miles of renewed Electric Catenary, 4 transformers, and 11.15 miles of Signal Cable.

9.       Ridership was slightly down in fiscal 2015 so no product line was up 10% from the previous year, though NEC Special Trains was 14.8% over budget. NEC Special Trains were also the only product line to exceed 10% of budgeted revenues (by 23.4%).

10.   Capital Spending for the entire year was $1.309.195 million of which $37.819 million was for the Gateway Project (concrete shell under the Hudson Yards) and $78.229 million was for acquisitions. ADA expenditures were only $19.8 million out of a congressional requirement of $50 million.

11.   President Boardman has announced his retirement on September 30, 2016. Amtrak is now conducting a search for his replacement. Congress has passed a long term authorization for Amtrak. But the appropriation for fiscal 2016 was kept the same.  The drive is on to get the appropriations for 2017 to reflect the higher figures in the authorization bill.

12.   Gateway received a small boost from the TIGER Grants when money was granted to do some preliminary construction on the North Portal Bridge. Also the high level platforms at Kingston Station are being constructed. This project and the related third set of tracks is one of the few capacity projects being addressed by Amtrak at this time.

13.   Amtrak also released today the October report so you should get another of these analysis soon.

Steve Musen

Rhode Island representative to NARP’s Council of Representatives