February Amtrak Report

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

1.       The report is dated March 25, 2016 but was not posted until March 29th or 30th. The posting is relatively early but lags the publishing date by more than a few days.

2.       The month had 29 rather than 28 days because of the leap year. Even after factoring in the extra day the ridership was up over the previous year for the month. The financials were also improved over the previous year for February, however, February is usually a poor month for both ridership and revenues so the bar was low.

3.       For the first five months Amtrak had a cash operating loss of $118.4 million plus interest expense of $26.0 million. For the year Amtrak is now predicting a total cash loss of $289.4 million (an improvement of $0.1 million over the previous forecast).  The operations appropriation for FY2016 is $288.5 million with the allowance of $50 million from the capital appropriations. Still this means the remaining $49.1 million in Capital Allowance cannot be spent until the potential need has bene eliminated.

4.       Eleven product lines show operating surpluses for the year to date:

Acela                                                                                                                                    $125.1 million

Northeast Regionals                                                                                                          $76 million

Washington-Newport News                                                                                             $2.9 million

Washington-Lynchburg                                                                                                     $1.3 million

Carolinian                                                                                                                             $1.3 million

Maple Leaf                                                                                                                           $0.7 million

Vermonter                                                                                                                           $0.5 million

Washington-Richmond                                                                                                      $0.5 million

Washington-Norfolk                                                                                                          $0.3 million

Ethan Allen                                                                                                                          $0.3 million

Hoosier State                                                                                                                      $0.1 million

             Wolverines and Non-NEC Special Trains covered all costs except for OPEBs, PRJ and IG.

5.       Cost Recovery slipped to 96% for the first five months and Food and Beverage recovery was 55.3% during the same time.

6.       Amtrak again lacked to provide an Engineer’s report (five months in a row) and for 17months has violated federal statutes by not providing monthly financial reports.

7.       Amtrak President joe Boardman has stated that Amtrak’s cash reserves needed to be watch carefully, but we do not have the slightest idea of what that cash balance is. Moreover, if the February report is accurate, the cash operating situation improved by $3.9 million during the month leaving one questioning why the cash reserves were going down.

8.       The Chief Mechanical Officer’s report shows that 15 Amfleet, 7 Superliners, 2 Horizons, 3 Viewliners, and 1 Surfliner cars were overhauled in February.

9.       Ridership was up 49,235 in February, reducing the deficit for the fiscal year so far to 121,093. Total ridership so far this fiscal year is 12,265,828. Two product lines show riderships over the same period in the previous fiscal year of more than 10%: Non-NEC Special Trains of 108.3% and the Palmetto of 65.5%.

10.   Authorized Capital Spending increased by $1.902 million to $1.922 billion. Specifically, Engineering increased by $1.682 million and NECIID by $0.219 million. In actual capital spending it has totaled $499.204 million with the concrete shell in Gateway costing $34.889 million and acquisitions at $17.215 million (an increase of $0.463 million). ADA Expenditures so far this year are $8.1 million. It looks like Amtrak will spend a record amounton ADA in FY2016. (It would not take much).

11.   Employment increased by 202 employees to 20,694 in February.

12.   On the New Haven-Springfield line new stations are being built in Wallingford, Meriden and Berlin. At Springfield Union Station, the exterior rehabilitation is near completion and work is progressing on the interior.

13.   So far no budget for any of the appropriations have cleared congress. A MilCon (Military Construction and Veterans Affairs) is being considered by the house. Perhaps some of the 12 bills will be passed by regular order, but there is no guarantee.

14.   It looks like preliminary engineering for the new Hudson Tunnels will be worked upon during FY2017, however, no word on whether or not real construction will take place on the North Portal Bridge.

15.   A baggage dorm, a sleeper, and a dining car were released by CAF to Amtrak. Almost all of the ACS64 Electrics have now been delivered to Amtrak.

Steve Musen

Rhode Island and Providence representative to NARP’s Council of Representatives