March Amtrak Report

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

1.       The report is dated April 28, 2016 and posted the same day. The report is a little early, the posting very much so.

2.       The month contained Easter which usually increases ridership, though it may be the convergence with the usual spring school break that causes the increase. Also helping with the improvement this month were higher gasoline prices which started to rise.

3.       For the first half of the fiscal year, Amtrak had a cash operating loss of $128.4 million which would be only an additional $10 million over the previous report. For the year Amtrak is now predicting a total cash loss of $276.8 million (an improvement of $12.6 million from the previous forecast). Since the operations appropriation for FY2016 is $288.5 million plus allowance from the capital appropriations, this means that if this trend continues, Amtrak will not have to touch any of the capital appropriations to balance its books and would have an additional $12.5 million to apply either to reserves or on-going capital projects.

4.       Twelve product lines now show a operating surplus for the first half of the fiscal year:

                 Acela $150.8 million

                 Northeast Regionals $91.3 million

                 Washington-Newport News $3.3 million

                 Washington-Lynchburg $1.6 million

                 Carolinian $1.5 million

                 Maple Leaf $1.4 million

                 Vermonter $0.6 million

                 Washington-Richmond $0.5 million

                 Ethan Allen $0.5 million

                 Washington-Norfolk $0.4 million

                  AUTO TRAIN $0.4 million

                  Hoosier State  $0.2 million

The Auto Train also showed some good results during the Winter Months last year. Hopefully it will be able to hold this surplus for the final six months.

5.        Cost Recovery improved to 97% for the first six months as did Food & Beverage which is now 56.1%. (For the month of March alone it hit 60%).

6.       Amtrak again refused to provide an Engineer’s report. This is now SIX MONTHS in a row and for eighteen unjustified months in which it did not file any financial reports such as profit and loss, balance sheet, and cash flows. While in Washington, I did point this out to an Amtrak Official who hopefully will do something about this.

7.       In March, Amtrak’s cash balance should have improved with favorable to budget monthly results of $2.7 million. Of course, not printing a national timetable (which would not have been printed until the Fall) will probably be the excuse given for this improvement.

8.       The Chief Mechanical Officer’s report shows that 14 Amfleet (one of which was a repaired out of service car), 11 Superliners, 2 Horizons, and 1 Viewliner Sleeper were overhauled in March.

9.       Ridership was up 49,680 for the month of March compared to the previous year which reduces the year to date deficit for the first six months to 71,413. Total Ridership for the first six months of FY2016 is 14,991,692. Three product lines show increases of more than 10% for the comparable period last year: Palmetto 75.0%, Non-NEC Special Trains of 29.4%, and California Zephyr of 12.9%. The Palmetto is benefiting from being combined with a former Northeast Regional Train.

10.   Authorized Capital Spending actually decreased by $6.440 million to $1.916 billion. Emergency Management was the department that was reduced. In actual capital spending for all of Amtrak totals $625.267 million for the first half of FY2016. The concrete shell in Gateway (and perhaps other projects in Gateway) has received $38.209 million and Acquisitions increased $0.239 million in March to $17.454 million so far this year. ADA Expenditures for the first six months have reached $10.1 million which increases the likelihood that Amtrak will spend a record amount on ADA this fiscal year.

11.   Employment increased again by 50 employees to 20,774 in March.

12.   The ACS64 Sprinter order of locomotives is almost complete. The penultimate locomotive was just shipped and the final one is expected to leave the shop soon. 

13.   The Senate Appropriations Committee has approved an increase of $30 million in direct funding of Amtrak. There is also funding of $15 million for restoration of service which could be of benefit to get the train back between Orlando and New Orleans. There is two other pots of money $50 million for Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) and $20 million for state of good repair for rail systems which may have some benefits for Amtrak, though the CRISI money is limited to Safety Items such as PTC and the state of good repairs may be shared with a host of other providers of both passenger and freight rail services. Passage of the Senate bill will require the Senate to clear some other measures first and this could take a while.


Rhode Island representative to NARP’s Council of Representatives