December Amtrak Report

I have read the December report and these are the items I find interesting:

1.       The report is dated January 29, 2016 but was not posted until February 1st or 2nd. This is slightly early.

2.       The month was unusual in that ridership was off but the bottom line was positive. Amtrak would show a profit but for the ancillary business for which it shows rather large losses. Actually, I believe that the ancillary business lines make money, but Amtrak accounting dumps operating expenses that should be located in other places.

3.       For the first three months, Amtrak has a cash operating loss of $19.6 million, which after deducting interest expense of $13.9 million, means a cash loss of $5.70 million. This is slightly better than $6.8 million cited in last month’s report. Amtrak is very pessimistic about the rest of the fiscal year; as it is now predicting a cash loss of $321.8 million for the entire fiscal year. That would be $33.3 million worse than the prediction made at the end of November 2015. The federal appropriation is only $288.5 million for operations, but there is an allowance of $50 million to transfer from capital. On a GAAP basis Amtrak lost $203.4 million plus $13.9 million in non-operating expense for the first quarter of the current fiscal year.  This was $6.4 million better than budget.

4.       Thirteen product lines showed “operating surpluses” for the first three months.

Acela                                                                     $88.3 million

Northeast Regionals                                          $63.1 million

Washington-Newport News                              $ 1.7 million

Maple Leaf                                                            $ 1.3 million

Washington-Lynchburg                                      $ 0.8 million

Wolverines                                                           $ 0.5 million

Vermonter                                                           $ 0.5 million

Washington-Norfolk                                          $ 0.4 million

Washington-Richmond                                     $ 0.4 million

Carolinian                                                            $ 0.4 million

Hoosier State                                                      $ 0.2 million

Ethan Allen                                                          $ 0.1 million

Piedmont                                Greater than      $ 0.0 million


In addition, New Haven-Springfield, Keystone and Adirondack would have been in this category except for OPEBs, Projects and Inspector General Expense. The New Haven-Springfield is extremely interesting in that this last category was disproportionately high compared to the rest of the product lines. In fact, the $0.9 million assigned was highest for any other product line including $0.5 for Acela (the next highest). New Haven-Springfield operating expense has been cut severely by the suspension of most of the trains. One can assume that IG expense was very high for the month because of inquiries into the construction that is on-going. 

5.       Cost recovery was 103.0% for the first three months (ancillary business lines are not computed into this) and food and beverage recovery was 57.5%. 

6.       Amtrak again failed to include an Engineer’s report. This makes three months in a row. The financial tables have now been gone 15 months without showing up. 

7.       So we more in the dark as to outstanding debt or cash on hand.

8.       The Chief Mechanical Officer’s report show that 13 Amfleets, 10 Superliners, 2 Horizons, 1 Viewliner, 1 Surfliner and 1 Acela Set were overhauled in December. Your guess as to the Partridge in the Pear Tree.

9.       Ridership continues to fall behind in month to month comparisons totaling a deficit of 158,184 for the first three months.  The total number of riders for October to December 2015 was 7,868,218. Two product lines do show an increase in excess of 10% over the previous year: Non-NEC Special Trains: +907.8% and Palmetto +50.4%; The Palmetto is now carrying local passengers between Washington and New York and explains much of the increase. At the same time the Silver Star shows big losses in ridership (mostly coach passengers) with the elimination of the diner. Very low gasoline prices have also dampened ridership across all of the product lines.

10.   Capital Spending authorization was increased overall with Strategic Fleet Rail Initiatives increased by $11.372 million, Marketing and Sales by $3.536 million and Engineering by $2.969 million offset by a decrease of $11.371 million in NEC IID. Overall spending for entire year is now forecast for $32.726 million less. Actual capital spending totaled $295.440 million so far with the concrete shell in Gateway at $18.225 million and Acquisitions at $16.463 million (with $8.792 million spent just in December). ADA expenditures so far this year have been $5.0 million.

11.   Employment decreased by 72 employees in December to 20,512 total.

12.   Construction work has been progressing during this mild winter at Kingston and also at the layover facility in Brunswick, Maine. In fact almost all of the real improvements to the Amtrak System being constructed this year are in Rhode Island, Maine and New York State.

Steve Musen

Rhode Island representative to NARP’s Council of Representatives