October & November 2016 Amtrak Report

I have read both the October and November Reports and this is what I found interesting:

  1. Both reports are dated January 12, 2017 and published the same day. Normally the October report comes out late as the Capital Spending may not be finalized. This would be on par with previous years. The most interesting thing is how this report mirrors exactly previous years, despite the new accounting system that was supposed to separate the NEC from the rest of the National System. 
  2. Basically both months show slight increases in ridership and revenues and expenses were favorable.
  3. For the first two months of fiscal 2017, Amtrak had a cash operating income of $3.3 Million for the combined system. However since the Northeast Corridor had a cash operating surplus of $107.3 million we can guess that the remaining system lost $104 million on pure cash basis. Since Congress has already appropriated $662.2327 million for the National System we can assume that sufficient cash exists to carry through to April 30th when the new Continuing Resolution (CR) expires. The NEC has received $134.74 million in appropriations in the two CRs.
  4. Because October and November tend to be some of Amtrak’s best months, 12 Product Lines are now showing operating surpluses. In a new wrinkle Amtrak has now allocated the revenues from commuter trains to various product lines that share facilities. This has caused a couple of the product lines to show operating surplus (such as New Haven-Springfield) that would not otherwise qualify. 


Acela $62.6 million

Northeast Regionals $45.2 million

Washington-Newport News $1.4 million

Maple Leaf $0.7 million

Washington-Lynchburg $0.6 million

Washington-Richmond $0.3 million

Washington-Norfolk $0.3 million

New Haven-Springfield $0.3 million

Keystone $0.3 million

Carolinian $0.1 million

Hoosier State $0.1 million

Wolverines $0.1 million

The total for Virginia’s four product lines was $2.6 million. 

  1. Cost recovery of the entire system 104% for the first two months and recovery for food & beverages was 60.1%.
  2. The Engineers’ report is still AWOL. It has now been 14 months since this report was included. Even worse the Profit and Loss, Balance Sheet, and Cash Flow pages have been missing for 26 months. Therefore we have no way of knowing how much money Amtrak has in reserve. I am surprised that any lending institution including TIFIA, RRIF and other government agencies would lend a single penny to a business that does not supply it with monthly financial statements. There is also the little problem that Amtrak is required to publish these on their web page every month as part of the appropriations and authorization legislation passed by Congress.
  3. The Chief Mechanical Officer’s report shows that in the two months Amtrak overhauled: 27 Amfleet, 19 Superliners (one of which was in wreck status previously), 3 Horizions, 2 Viewliners, and 3 Surfliners. Interestingly, the report shows that in the full year, Amtrak may be overhauling 4 Diners and 5 Pacific Parlor cars.  However none of the later have arrived yet at Beech Grove to be worked upon.
  4. For the first two months, Amtrak is running 44,134 more riders than for the same period in FY2016. For the year so far, ridership totaled 5,329,583. Product lines that are up over 10% from the previous period of time are Chicago-St. Louis (31.4%), Palmetto (26.8%), Texas Eagle (18.1%), Cascades (12.6%), Vermonter (11.0%), and Hoosier State (11.0%).
  5. Authorized spending for the entire FY2017 is set at $2.279 billion of which $1.010 billion is allocated to Engineering. Mechanical is authorized $379.887 million, Environmental $15.762 million, Emergency Management is $10.125 million, Transportation is $95.487 million, Finance & Treasury is $27.832' Information Technology is $50.301 million, Procurement is $7.384 million, Real Estate is $16.238, Strategic Fleet Initiatives is $488.792 million, NEC IID is $90.864 million, Chief Operating Officer is $6.310 million, and Marketing & Sales is $90.864 million. In specific projects I have been following, Gateway program is authorized $71.395 million and Acquisitions is authorized $53.736 million.

However, forecast spending is now estimating that $92.679 million of the authorized spending will not be spent.

Actual spending to date on Capital Projects is $182.892 million of which $6.861 million was spent on the Gateway project, $2.079 million on Acquisitions and ADA $6.4 million. The spike in acquisitions was probably the acceptance of the new Viewliner diner Annapolis.

  1. Employment went up in September and down more in October for a net loss of 16. Total Amtrak employment on November 30, 2016 was 20,167.
  2. In general news, Congress passed another CR in December extending appropriations for 11 of the 12 budget bills to April 30, 2017. The other bill was appropriated in September for the entire 12 months. As noted above, Amtrak has be appropriated so far a total $769.5327 million. However with 1/2 of the fiscal year gone by that date, the use of any extra money appropriated in the final bill is limited. Moreover the temptation for Congress is to just pass the remaining spending bills in a CR that lasts the remainder of the year. 

CAF Industries has been working on another diner which hopefully will be released in March with others following shortly. This contract is way overdue by three or more years. Moreover, until the sleeper and baggage dorm cars are accepted, no additional capacity will have been added to the system. However, the contract for high level corridor cars issued to Nippon Shayro makes CAF look good. Right now not even the complete designs have been completed meaning no car is even in production. The Federal money for the high level cars expires on September 30, 2017 and Congress is unlikely to extend the deadline.

A third Downeaster was extended to Brunswick, ME in November. Ridership and Revenue per passengers should edge up for that product line in future months.

The next expansion probably will be the extension of the Lynchburg train to Roanoke. Though there is talk of another San Joaquin to running to Sacramento. 

Some seed money for improving and restoring stations along the route of the New Orleans to Orlando train was released to a number of locations. However, implementation of the train will require considerable capital investment.

Congress is contemplating an infrastructure bill. NARP is hoping for inclusion of rail projects. Financing and Funding are questions to be resolved. However it appears that money will be borrowed to construction the additional tunnels under the Hudson and the North Portal Bridge.

Elaine Chao has been nominated to be the next Transportation Secretary. She is expected to be easily confirmed. Amtrak has added additional trains (from New York City to Washington) for the inauguration this week.

Steve Musen

Rhode Island representative to NARP’s Council of Representatives