More Amtrak Full-Service Dining Expected to End

Amtrak is expected to end full-service dining on all eastern long-distance trains the Rail Passengers Association reported last week.

That means that sleeping car passengers traveling on the New York-Miami Silver Meteor and New York-New Orleans Crescent will be served the same fare that passengers receive on the Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited.

In early 2020, Amtrak will also end the practice of providing complimentary dinner to coach passengers aboard the Auto Train between Virginia and Florida.

Instead, coach passengers will be given the option of buying café car fare onboard or purchasing meals from food trucks at terminals in Lorton, Virginia, and Sanford, Florida.

An Amtrak news release said all Auto Train passengers will receive a continental breakfast before their arrival.

Sleeping car passengers will continue to be served in their own dining car with “a new menu and the addition of complementary wine to the dinner service,” the news release said.

A spokesperson told Trains magazine that menus for Auto Train sleeping car passengers are still being worked out.

The Amtrak news release said other enhancements will be made to the Auto Train’s sleeping cars including “upgraded towels and bed linens and other pleasantries in each room.”

Amtrak also said it will expand sleeping-car accommodation availability to meet demand.

It is not clear how the food service changes will affect sleeping car passengers on the Chicago-New York Cardinal.

That train has not had meals prepared on board for several years, but offers a much more expansive menu for sleeping car passengers than is available on the Lake Shore Limited or Capitol Limited.

Since June 2018 sleeping car passengers aboard the Lake Shore and Capitol have received box meals with just one offering being served hot.

One complimentary alcoholic beverage is also provided per passenger per meal.

The meals are served in dedicated cars open only to sleeping car passengers. Passengers also have the option of having the meal delivered to their room.

The range of food items available, though, is limited.

RPA said the changes to food service on eastern trains other than the Auto Train will become effective on Oct. 1, the first day of the 2020 federal budget year. The Auto Train changes take effect on Jan. 15.

Food service provided on western long-distance trains will not be affected by the changes.

The New York-Miami Silver Star has not provided meals to sleeping car passengers since July 1, 2015.

Auto Train coach passengers would no longer have separate dining and lounge/cafe cars and given that Amtrak prohibits passengers from consuming in dining and café cars any food brought board the train that means anything purchased from a food truck will need to be consumed at the passenger’s coach seat.

In its news release, Amtrak said Auto Train coach passengers would be able to buy food and beverages from a cross country café car.

The coming changes drew criticism from RPA President Jim Mathews.
“The problem isn’t the food itself, it’s the way the whole experience is handled,” he said on RPA’s website. “We understand the need to make lighter fare available to match the tastes of many modern travelers. But as it’s currently executed on the Capitol and the Lake Shore, too often food items run short, there aren’t enough hot options, and the presentation is perfunctory and off-putting.”

RPA said that the food service changes are part of a strategy to “improve the financials on these routes.”

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2 Responses to “More Amtrak Full-Service Dining Expected to End”

  1. James Allison Says:

    After these changes, they should not be allowed to use the word “dining”, as it is nothing more than being handed a wooden box of generic, plastic-wrapped food. Good luck in getting something that you can eat, because in 80% of the monthly trips I have made, they run out or have some other excuse as to why it is not available. Friendly service was already hard to find, yet now, being thrown a box of food and expect find a place to eat it is getting even less human interaction on these planes. Oh wait! I meant to say “trains”. I pity the poor soul up in Coach who is going to be required to sit beside someone eating their box of smelly fish or some other offensive smelling food. And cleaning the carpets from all the spills?!? I hope Amtrak has budgeted for carpet replacement and additional cleaning staff!

  2. Robert Gehron Says:

    Why doesn’t Amtrak turn their dining cars over to a gourmet chef / restaurant and offer true first class service in addition to their changes. I would gladly pay for the experience as an upgrade to first class rather than a microwave heated meal. As a recently retired baby boomer I have just begun to travel extensively on Amtrak without the hassles of airline restrictions and highway construction backups.

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