May Amtrak Report

I have read the May report and these are the things that I find interesting. The month was a train wreck in every sense of the word.

1) The report is dated June 25, 2015 and released on the web site the same day. Still missing are the Balance Sheet, Cash Flow and Income/Expense pages. I guess that they decided to get the bad news out early.

2) Ridership for May was down sharply from 2014, The wreck of Train 188 put the Philadelphia to New York section out of commission for 6 days. During that time Amtrak ridership on the NEC was down 60%.

However for the first eight months of FY 2015 there was still a gain of 113,903 over the same period a year ago. For the year to date it totals 20, 171,775. Not only was the NEC off for the month, but most of the state supported corridors were also down. This was the result of service disruptions due to construction,  late trains because of heavy rains in the mid-west and lower gasoline prices.

3) Amtrak’s cost recovery dropped to 94% from 95% for the current year to date.

Amtrak is for FY2015 to date; $92.2 million worse than budget and a GAAP loss of $823.3 million. The corporation is now forecasting that for the entire FY2015 a cash loss of $336.7 million. This forecast is $55.9 million worse than the projection made in the April report. Also since Amtrak operating appropriation is $250 million with the flexibility of transferring only $50 million from Capital to Operating, Amtrak will need to reduce its cash reserves by $36.7 million to make up the difference.

 June will be better than May (It would have to be since there were no major train wrecks), but from an operating stand point there have been huge delays with the Long Distance Trains crossing the Missouri River. The Chief and Zephyr have been extremely hard hit, and the Builder is averaging about 2 hours lateness (which still enables it to make eastern connections.)

 Food & Beverage recovery slipped to 52.8%.

 On a GAAP basis the first eight months were $149.6 million worse than last year.

 4) The number of product lines with an operating surplus shrunk to 5:

 Acela                                                                   $194.0 million

Northeast Regionals                                             $114.3 million

Washington-Newport News                                   $   3.3 million

Washington-Lynchburg                                         $   1.7 million

Vermonter                                                            $   1.0 million

 Four more product lines: Washington-Norfolk, Washington-Richmond, Maple Leaf, and Auto Train covered all costs except: OPEBs, PJRs and their share of the Amtrak IG Costs.

 5) No product line showed an increase of 10% from FY2014. In fact very few showed an increase at all.

 6) As noted the financial results were not published. This makes the eighth straight month without this vital information. Amtrak has also not published its audited results from FY2014 yet.

 7) The Engineer’s report shows that in May 0.9 miles of Catenary was renewed and 1.5 miles of Signal Cable laid.

 8) In May, the Mechanical Department overhauled 11 Amfleets, 8 Superliners, 3 Horizons and 1 Viewliner. One of the Superliners was a wrecked Superliner II Sleeper that was put back into service. One can assume that some of the repair made after the crash to the other cars were in this category.

9) The capital budget authorized an increase of $47.432 million overall after adding $50.361 million to Communications and Signals-Abs Locations and shifting around other categories. As you know the deaths on Train 188 occurred when the first class car plowed into a catenary support pole and was demolished. Forecast spending however was down $2.378 million overall.

 Actual spending so far is $731.082 million. Gateway (Concrete shell over the Hudson Yards) was $26.479 and Acquisitions was $56.570 million (Increase of $6.190 million so they must have paid for another bunch of baggage cars.) ADA expenditures so far this year are $14.6 million.

 10) Amtrak employment decreased by 26 to 20,451.

 11) ACS Sprinter Electric Locomotives that have been shipped out of Siemen’s plant in Sacramento is approximately 48.

 12) The Senate Appropriations THUD Subcommittee marked up its bill and had it approved by the full committee. In short, the bill level funds Amtrak with the same amount as this year and restores the cuts to the TIGER grants made by the House. However it reduced the amount of money for future New Starts and Small Starts. The bill passed the full committee by a 20 to 10 vote (The Republicans on the committee plus four Democrats with 10 Democrats against). The vote against was part of an action by the Democratic leadership to break the sequestration caps and to spend more money on discretionary programs. Apparently they are blocking the Defense Appropriation Bill and may not allow any votes on any of the other 11 budget bills.

A Senate reauthorization of Amtrak cleared the Commerce Committee. Whether or not it reaches the Senate Floor is an open question if the Appropriation Bills get tied up in lengthy debate.

 No action yet on the Highway reauthorization (which also contains the Mass Transit reauthorization). The current extension expires in July.



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