November 2018 Amtrak Financial Report

These are the items that I noticed in the report that were interesting to me:

  • The report was dated  December 28, 2018 but posted December 31, 2018. While the report contains much less information than under previous administrations, at least it is on time. 

  • The NEC generated for the first two months an operating surplus of $122.879 million and the remainder of the system had a deficit of $97.454 million. This means that combined, the entire system had an operating profit of $25.4 million. For the fiscal year to date, the NEC made debt service payments of $47.366 million. After capital investments of $121.257 million, it had a negative balance of $4.283 million for the current year. But it had a carryover balance of $678.640 million from FY2018. The National Network made debt service of $4.431 million and capital investment of $86.314 million. The National Network Account ended the month with a negative current balance of $161.767 million, however, at the end of September the 2018 National Network Account had a positive balance of $329.188 million. In addition for the years prior to FY2018 Amtrak had a huge cash balance which could be used for either category. 

  • Capital Spending is described in broad categories for the FY2019 to date: Infrastructure $98.3 million, Stations and Real Estate $15.9 million, Fleet $45.4 million, Information Technology $18.0 million, ADA $11.1 million, and Support $1.3 million. Gateway Projects received $4.0 million and Avila $12.6 million. Total Capital Spending was $207.6 million which is up $29.1 million over the comparable period. 

  • The GAAP loss for the first two months appears to be $105.8 million. The adjusted operating earnings for October 2018 (i.e. the cash operating needs of the corporation) were $27.7 million better than the comparable period last year. 

  • Fourteen product lines are showing an operating surplus for the period. 

    • Acela $70.0 million

    • Northeast Regionals $56.0 million

    • Washington-Newport News $1.4 million

    • Washington- Lynchburg (Roanoke) $1.1 million

    • Keystones $0.8 million

    • Carolinian $0.7 million

    • Washington-Richmond $0.5 million

    • Washington-Norfolk $0.5 million

    • Kansas City-St. Louis $0.4 million

    • Vermonter $0.4 million

    • Wolverine $0.4 million

    • Hiawatha $0.2 million

    • Piedmont $0.1 million

    • Blue Water $0.1 million

    • Pere Marquette basically broke even.   

    • The four Virginia product lines generated approximately $3.5 million in total operating surplus.

  • Ridership for the first two months was 5,686,000 (Approx.) which is about 97 thousand more than last year, however, several of the long distance routes are showing major losses for the month when compared against the previous two months last year. Topping the list was the Cardinal which is off approximately 19%. The Capitol Ltd. was off 9.5%, the Builder 8.6%, Palmetto 8.6%, and the Texas Eagle around 8.5%. Most of the rest had much smaller losses with the City of New Orleans, and Crescent relatively equal in ridership, and the Sunset Ltd actually up by 10%, however, due to track work by the Union Pacific the next two months, the Sunset will only run two times a week in each direction. 

  • Attempts to fund the remaining 7 budget bills are stymied when the President refused to consider any budget bill that did not contain his $5.0 billion (or more) even though only one of the seven would be the proper place for that expenditure. Thus the Democrats who now control the House have passed several bills. One would fund six of the seven budget bills (including THUD) to September 30, 2019. Another bill would be a continuing resolution that would fund Homeland Security through February 7, 2019. While the President is putting pressure on the Republican Senate not to pass either bill, there is considerable opposition from some GOP Senators to this route. Two of them Collins of Maine, and Gardner from Colorado have called for passage of both bills. Others have indicated support for this course of action, or a counter action that includes some money for the border wall. HR21 which is the omnibus bill funding THUD and five other appropriations replicates exactly the bills passed by the Senate. It contains the important language concerning the South West Chief and the need for long distance trains. Since then, the House has passed four individual bills, funding Finance, Interior, Agriculture and THUD. Those bills were supported by the full Democratic caucus. Between 8 and 12 Republican members of congress voted in favor of these bills. The one with the largest number was THUD. So far Senator McConnell is refusing to consider any of these bills because he does not have the support of the President. As of this date (January 13th) the partial shutdown has set a record at 24 days. 

  • Meanwhile, the administration has been slow to fund the two CRs as they apply to passenger rail. Amtrak has as of the end of November, not received any of the money contained in those two CRs though it does expect some money in December and January. 

  • While Amtrak has sufficient reserves to last several months, a prolong shutdown will eventually drain those. A shorter time would be needed to reach that state of affairs if the administration continues to hold back the funds issued in the two CRs that the President did sign. While it has not been mentioned, the possibility that funds would not be forthcoming might be enough incentive for Anderson and Gardner to embargo some or all of the long distance trains to conserve their reserves. In the meantime the air controllers and TSA employees not being paid, there could be a migration from cancelled airlines to Amtrak. 

  • Amtrak has ordered  75 new Tier 4 Locomotives to be used primarily on the Long Distance Trains. Because of the length of the routes travelled the long distance train locomotives need larger fuel capacity than the Chargers used for corridor service. The new locomotives will otherwise resemble the Chargers since they will be built by Siemens.

 Steve Musen

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