Long-Distance Trains Likely Safe Through FY2020

Amtrak has signaled to Congress that it may not support continuation of all current long-distance trains when it sends its proposed reauthorization proposal to Capitol Hill this fall.

In a letter to Senator Jerry Moran of Kansas, Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson said the carrier plans to continue operating the existing long-distance network through fiscal year 2020.

However, Anderson said the carrier intends to have a conversation with Congress and its stakeholders regarding the future of its long-distance network.

Anderson said the carrier believes there is a future for “high-quality long-distance trains,” but it also believes that the size, nature and roles need to be reviewed.

He said Amtrak will include options and recommendations in its reauthorization proposal to improve the national network, including the long-distance routes.

Anderson was responding to a letter sent to him by eleven senators posing questions about the future of the national network.

Moran told the Kansas New Service that he expects Congress to use the annual appropriations process to mandate that Amtrak continue serving its existing long-distance routes.

But Moran cautioned that it will still need a fight.

“I need to make sure that Amtrak, its board of directors, its management has a commitment to long-term passenger services in places in the country in which it’s not probably ever going to be profitable,” he said,.

Moran said he will continue to hold all nominees to Amtrak’s board of directors until he gets assurances that the Southwest Chief will continue to operate over the length of its Chicago to Los Angeles route as is.

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One Response to “Long-Distance Trains Likely Safe Through FY2020”

  1. Rail Provocateur Says:

    Senator Moran (R-KS) holding Amtrak Board nominees for assurance that the “Southwest Chief” will continue to operate is but merely a political gesture. If the senator was serious, he would invoke the enabling legislation for Amtrak requiring a competent Board to be created from a well of experienced leaders knowledgable in rail operations, food/beverage, marketing, finance, HR, labor relations, travel industry, etc.

    Given that depthl of expertise currently denied to Amtrak’s executive management, an acceptable level of stewardship requiring full accountability is painfully absent. A Board intent on fulfilling its mission would demand full transparency, including:

    -allocation of costs.
    -adherence to GAAP.
    -embracing the National Network; not proposing to sacrifice long distance routes and shaking down state-supported corridors to subsidize the losses incurred by the NEC. In fact, such a Board comfortable with real numbers would have recognized Amtrak was established to operate passenger trains; not to own and maintain expensive infrastructure such as the NEC (and to have avoided the politics of giving a pass to the Northeastern commuter lines from paying (1976-2015) to operate on the NEC and its infrastructure depreciation.) Such a Board would have demanded the U.S. DOT to assume costs and management of the NEC to eliminate the inevitable conflict between regions we see now.

    For Senator Moran and his minion to actually become effective, they must realize the pre-requisite is to understand real accounting numbers re cost allocation, revenues, etc. What should be the first step in a run-up to dealing with the mirage of PRIIA is to have a forensic audit conducted by an external accounting firm (other than KPMG).

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