June 2016 Amtrak Report

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


1.       The report is dated July 26, 2016 and was posted the same day. Two days later than the two previous months but still early.

2.       Amtrak ridership figures were strong in June compared to the previous year. The Downeaster in particular had strong rebound from the previous year when it was truncated much of the time. Revenue, however, is not quite where it should be, as discounts are being used to lure riders back.

3.       For the first three quarters of the current fiscal year, Amtrak had a cash operating loss of $196 million. For the entire year Amtrak is now predicting a total cast loss of $260.7 million which is an $11.4 million improvement over the previous forecast. It should be noted that since long distance train tickets are often purchased months in advance, Amtrak’s revenue predictions for the remainder of the year become more accurate as the fiscal year ends.  The $260.7 million compares favorably with the $288.5 million operating appropriation that Congress set for FY2016. Gasoline prices have pretty much stayed the same for the last two months and preventing larger ridership figures.

4.       The same twelve product lines that showed an operating surplus in the last report continue to do so:

Acela $232.4 million

Northeast Regionals $145.6 million

Washington-Newport News $4.9 million

Washington-Lynchburg $2.3 million

Carolinian $2.1 million

Washington-Richmond $0.8 million

Vermonter $0.6 million

Washington-Norfolk $0.5 million

Maple Leaf $0.5 million

Ethan Allen $0.3 million

Auto Train $0.2 million

Hoosier State $0.2 million

Keystone Product Line covered all costs except for OPEBs (Other Post-Employment Benefits), Projects, and the Amtrak IG.

Auto Train is now in its off season, so it may not survive on this list next month.

The four Virginian product lines now total $8.5 million.

5.       Cost Recovery edged up to 98% as did Food & Beverages which now equal 56.7% for the year so far.

6.       The Chief Mechanical Officer’s report shows that during June: 14 Amfleet, 12 Superliners, 3 Horizons, 1 Viewliner, and 1 Surfliner cars were overhauled. Amtrak may have increased the planned number of Superliners being overhauled as the percentage of total planned Superliners for the entire year is reduced to a still healthy 76.4%. Most categories are now slightly over 3/4s which is good since the year is 3/4s completed.

7.       For the year to date, ridership is now 161,315 ahead of last year. The nine month total is 23,016,868. The Palmetto which benefits from a merger with a pair of Northeast Regionals is 86.4% ahead of last year which means that even it did not carry a single passenger in July, August and September its total would exceed the entire amount for FY2015. Other product lines showing improvements over 10% from the previous year to date are the Downeaster at 17.9%, Non-NEC Special Trains at 17.2%, and the California Zephyr at 12.6%.

8.    Authorized Capital Spending increased by $2.997 million to $1,928.529 million. Most of that went into Finance & Treasury. However the latest forecast of likely spending for the entire year has been cut again by $20.903 million.

In actual spending to date, the total is $1,017.915 million. Gateway projects have expended $47.750 million and Acquisitions have increased by $0.378 million to $18.712 million. ADA Expenditures have been $16.6 million in the year so far.

9.   Employment went down significantly (165 reduction) to 20,539 in June.

10.   Congress adjourned without passing any of the 12 appropriation bills. Obstruction by the Democrats prevented the MILCON conference Bill from even being voted on; they were expecting the Republicans to cave on both issues so as a result no additional funding for ZIKA fighting has been made available. In the House the Water and Energy Bill hit a dead wall when the Tea Party Republicans and the Democrats united to vote down the Appropriations committee’s bill. It is expected that when Congress resumes in September,  a continuous resolution (CR) will be passed continuing the situation to after the election.

NARP has been informed that CAF Diners will soon be released. In the meantime only 12 of the full diners are still in service, and an Am Lounge has been substituted for the diner on the Lake Shore Ltd.  Most of us are not so sure that the new diners will be on trains soon. Past practice has meant a break in time of several months before revenue service after the cars have been accepted. No sighting either of the cars at Elmira being prepped to being shipped.

Nippon Shayro has been even more quiet about the equipment they are building (which assumes the present tense in that sentence).

However progress is being made on the construction of the high level platforms at Kingston, RI. It appears that more of the northbound platform has been constructed. The elevators are out of commission as the levels of the doors are being changed. A Van is providing travel to the southbound platform. Also progressing is the layover facility at Brunswick Maine, the restoration of Union Station in Springfield, and the projects near Albany, New York.

Steve Musen

Rhode Island representative to NARP’s Council of Representatives