March Amtrak Report

I have read the March report and these are the things that I find interesting:

1) The report is dated April 30, 2015 and released on the web site no later than the following day. This is very early for a posting but in line with recent ones. Again the report omits the Balance Sheet, Cash Flow and Income/Expense pages.

2) Ridership was up from 2014 for March by 100,000 riders. For the first six months of FY2016 the gain is now 298,441. For the year so far it totals 15,063,105.

3) Amtrak's cost recovery for the fiscal year so far is 95%, which is the same as the report from the end of February.

Amtrak is for FY2015 to date $47.7 million worse than budget with a GAAP loss of $593.7 million. The corporation is forecasting for the entire FY2015 a cash loss of $285.2 million, which is $17.2 million improved over last month. To put this in perspective the operating appropriation is $250 million with the flexibility of transferring up to $50 million from the capital appropriation. The previous month it looked like the entire transfer would be needed plus some money from cash reserves. Now not all of the transfer would be needed if no major debacles occur.

Food & Beverage recovery was 52.5% a slight improvement over the percentage given last month.

On a GAAP basis the first half was $97.0 million worse than last year.

4) The number of product lines with operating surplus remained at 6:

Acela                                               $142.6 million
Northeast Regionals                          $86.0 million
Washington-Newport News                $2.6 million
Washington-Lynchburg                        $1.4 million
Vermonter                                             $1.0 million
Washington-Norfolk          better than    $0.0 million

Four of the other product lines would had an operating surplus if Other Post Employment Benefits (OPEB), Projects, and Amtrak Inspector General expenses were not included: Carolinian, Washington-Richmond, Maple Leaf, and Auto Train. Auto Train is interesting because this is the first time that a long distance train fell into this category. Unfortunately, March makes the end of the peak season for that train, and it is unlikely that it will make the cut next month.

5) No product line had an increase in excess of 10% for the first six months over the previous period a year earlier.

6) As noted the financial results were not published. This makes the sixth straight report without this vital information.

7) The Engineer's report shows that in March 1.1 miles of Catenary was renewed and that for the combined period of February and March 2.19 miles of Signal Cable was laid.

8) In March the Mechanical Department overhauled: 11 Amfleets, 11 Superliners, 3 Horizons, and 1 Viewliner.

9) The capital budget authorized a slight increase of $0.646 million all in Engineering. Forecast spending was reduced by $81.250 million, with $69.555 million in Engineering, $4.306 million in Mechanical, $5.778 million in Emergency Management, $5.316 million in Transportation, $1.217 million in Finance and Treasury, and $13.605 million in NED IID.

Actual spending so far this fiscal year was $513.182 million. Gateway (Concrete shell over the Hudson Yards) was $21.981 million, and Acquisitions was $50.274 million (Increase of $13.544 million). Another large installment must have been paid to CAF for the Viewliner cars being built. ADA Expenditures so far are $10.6 million.

10) Amtrak employment increased by 58 to 20,351.

11) ACS64 Sprinter Electric Locomotives that have been shipped out of Siemen's plant in Sacrament is now 43.

12) No action has been taken on the  custom treaty that would allow inspections in Montreal. It appears the State Department has not yet transmitted the treaty to the Senate for ratification.

Amtrak reauthorization bill in the Senate is expected to be introduced soon by Senator Wicker (R-MS).

Our Senator Whitehouse has introduced a bill to require Amtrak to allow pets on certain trains, Senators Feinstein (D-CA) and Kirk (R-IL) are cosponsors. Since the idea is a "pet project" of Representative Denham (R chair of the Railroad and Pipeline subcommittee), this bill is likely to pass either on its own or to be incorporated into the Amtrak reauthorization.

On the other hand, the draft THUD (Transportation and Housing and Urban Development) Appropriations bill that came out of the subcommittee is not good news. Amtrak had a $261 million cut in its appropriation from the current year, New Starts was reduced, TIGER Grants was slashed to $100 million from $500 million and the Washington Metro appropriation was cut in half by $75 million. At the same time, Airport appropriations were increased and small increases made to the Maritime and Pipeline Administrations. Overall the entire bill is $25 million more than last year so level funding should have been possible for Amtrak and Transit as well as TIGER. One can expect that some changes in the bill will occur in the House (watch the Washington Metro appropriation) and hopefully a better bill will pass the Senate where our Senator Reed is the ranking Democrat on the Senate THUD Appropriations subcomittee.

Also something has to be done about the Highway and Mass Transit reauthorization, which may include some rail provisions.

Steve Musen

State Representative from the State of Rhode Island to NARP's Council of Representatives