November 2017 Amtrak Report

hese are items that I noticed in the report that were interesting:

  • The report was dated December 29, 2017 and posted on the web site on January 2, 2018. 
  • The NEC generated for the first two months an operating surplus of $120.391 million and the remainder of the system had a deficit of $122.7 million. The NEC made debt service payments of $2.068 million (on the Electric Locomotives) and legacy debt repayments of $41.403 million. After capital investments of $96.648 million it still had in its NEC Account $111.757 million which is an increase of $2.634 million over the amount at the end of October 2017. The National Network made $81.787 million in Capital Investments, paid down legacy debt of $4.764 million and had $75.256 million remaining in its account at the end of November. Both accounts got reimbursed from the Treasury for Capital Investments made earlier (out of FY2017 and FY2018 appropriations). In December continuing resolutions were approved by congress on December 9th and 22nd; so the National Network should be well funded through January 19th when the current CR runs out.
  • Capital Spending is described in broad categories; $62.7 million for Infrastructure, $12.2 million for Stations and Real Estate, $51.3 million for Fleet, $11.1 million for Information Technology (IT), $7.3 million for ADA Compliance (off $0.8 million from the previous record year for this category), and $0.7 million for “Support”. There was also $30.4 million of State, Local and Other money spent, but it is not specified what that money was actually spent on.  Also listed is $2.7 million derived from RRIF which presumably is money borrowed to support the AVILA equipment being built.
  • The GAAP Loss for the first two months appears to be $127.3 million which is a $1.4 million improvement over the same FY2017 period. However, the adjusted operating earnings was $5.6 million worse than the previous year for those first two months.
  • Only nine product lines either showed an operating surplus or broke even:
    • Acela $70.2 million
    • Northeast Regionals $52.8 million
    • Washington-Newport News $1.2 million
    • Washington-Lynchburg $1.0 million
      • Presumably includes the new extension to Roanoke.
    • Vermonter $0.5 million
    • Washington-Norfolk $0.5 million
    • Carolinian $0.5 million
    • Washington-Richmond $0.4 million
    • Ethan Allen - Broke Even

The four Virginia product lines generated approximately $3.1 million total operating surplus.

  • The Current CR runs out on January 19, 2018. While the leaders of both parties say that progress has been made no further information has been divulged. In addition to the actual appropriations, sequestration could take a bite out a CR if passed and the Federal Debt Limit needs to be raised if the government is to borrow any more money than what it has repaid.
  • The Administration has stated that the agreement for the Federal Government to fund 50% of the entire Gateway Project was never agreed to by statute or by the current administration. Hence, construction advances would be limited to whatever Amtrak is able to match (from the NEC Account) to funds from NY, NJ and PATH. However, NY and NJ were going to borrow their share from the Federal Government and pay them back (which could be affected by the Administration position on this). Presumably, there is enough money to complete the Tunnel EIS, and the preliminary work on the North Portal Bridge, but not much else. If the House THUD appropriation was passed (and sequestration did not take a bite out of it) then some further construction on that bridge would be possible along with possibly a further extension of the Tunnel Box in Manhattan. The Senate THUD Bill would allow Amtrak to contribute more than what it did in FY2017 but not that significantly. A lot depends on the infrastructure bill that the administration is supposed to reveal this month. (However, I suspect the real bill will come from the House T&I Committee under Rep. Shuster. He has declared that he is not running for re-election, and by doing so can concentrate all of his efforts in get this legislation enacted into law).
  • However, the work at New York Penn Station to further upgrade the tracks under the station will take place starting today (January 5, 2018). 
  • CAF did release two diners: The Jackson and The Lansing. Interestingly, they skipped over The Concord and The Dover. There are now enough new diners to equip both The Silver Meteor and The Crescent.
  • The crash of Train 501 (Cascades) will impact negatively December’s result. Plans to increase service between Portland, OR and Seattle, WA with 2 new round trips have been postponed as the capacity on the old route which the Cascades have reverted does not allow for them (without drastically impacting freight service). Also most, if not all, of the train set has been damaged beyond repair leading to shortage of available  equipment.

Steve Musen

Representative to Narp’s Council of Representatives from the State of Rhode Island