Report Says Outlined Food Changes May be Not Final

An internal Amtrak report that was leaked this week was created some time ago and Amtrak continues to work out the details of its food and beverage service offerings on eastern long-distance trains, Trains magazine reported this week.

The leaked document, described by Trains as a presentation, outlined how the Crescent, Silver Meteor, Cardinal and City of New Orleans would switch to the “contemporary dining” service model that was introduced on the Lake Shore Limited and Capitol Limited in June 2018.

That model replaces full-service dining cars with a more limited selection of food prepared off the train.

The leaked Amtrak report, which was dated July 11, also indicated how many on-board positions would be eliminated as part of the switch.

In the case of some trains, there would be no net loss of jobs, but some positions will be reclassified.

Trains reported that when it asked Amtrak about the report, Amtrak spokeswoman Kimberly Woods replied in an email that the carrier is still working out the details for the menus and dining environment on the eastern-long distance trains, including the Auto Train.

The report, though, is consistent with some of what Amtrak has announced already in regards to the Auto Train in that starting in January coach passengers will no longer receive dinner in a dining car as part of their fare.

However, the report said that A-T coach passengers would also no longer receive a complimentary breakfast whereas an Amtrak news release said they would be receiving a complimentary continental breakfast.

Woods told Trains that the continental breakfast would not be served in a dining car.

She said that that such other aspects described in the report such as a “festive environment” for A-T coach passengers and “enhanced room service” in sleeping cars of all eastern long-distance trains has yet to be determined.

Although the Cardinal and City of New Orleans do not feature dining cars with food freshly prepared onboard, they do have sit-down meals that are prepared off the train and warmed by microwave and convection ovens.

These meals are offered to sleeping car passengers as part of their fare and sold to coach passengers.

The Amtrak internal report indicated that this type of service will be replaced on Oct. 1 with contemporary dining.

A Trains correspondent said that during a recent trip aboard the Crescent, dining car crew members said their jobs would soon be eliminated, but were not given a date.

The correspondent said he observed a ratio of about 60 percent sleeper passengers to 40 percent coach passengers in the Crescent’s dining car, which had a staff of one chef, one lead service attendant and one server.

The Trains story suggested that the changes to the Cardinal will result in the Viewliner diner that will be assigned to the train hosting the fewest passengers of any eastern long-distance train because Nos. 50 and 51 will continue to have just one Viewliner sleeping car.

The Cardinal lost its second sleeper in 2018 when it operated between Chicago and Washington during a track rehabilitation project at New York’s Penn Station.

Although the Cardinal has since been restored to Chicago-New York operation the second sleeper is no longer operating in late spring, summer and fall.

Amtrak is apparently planning to replace on the Cardinal its current Amfleet II “diner lite” car with tables on both sides with an Amfleet I “split club” with 18 business class seats on one side and a half-car lounge section on the other. Business class passengers will not have access to the Viewliner diner.

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