Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak Office of Inspector General’

Amtrak OIG Report Seeks Better Workload Management

November 20, 2018

Amtrak’s Office of Inspector General has recommended that the company save money by adjusting workloads and staffing, and better managing overtime.

The recommendations were made in an audit released earlier this month that estimated that Amtrak could put an estimated $2.3 million to $6.4 million to better use.

The audit focused on 62 locations where Amtrak services and inspects trains.

Those sites include 12 preventative maintenance facilities and 50 smaller outlying sites that service trains between runs.

It is the latter that occupied most of the attention of the recent OIG report because they offer the greatest opportunity for cost cutting.

These sites perform such Federal Railroad Administration-required safety inspections as cab signal tests, brake tests and interior and exterior inspections.

Workers also clean restrooms and café cars, wash windows, vacuum the cars, pump waste from toilets and replenish cars with potable water.

This work is done by Amtrak employees at 16 sites while contract employees work at 34 sites.

The OIG concluded that some work performed at facilities in Michigan and Missouri could be done at Amtrak’s service facilities in Chicago.

The audit found that schedules for several trains that originate or terminate in Chicago find the equipment assigned to them laying over in Chicago every 24 hours.

Chicago maintenance workers are already responsible for cleaning trains and have the capacity to conduct the FRA-mandated safety inspections.

Although the Michigan and Missouri sites may still be needed for train cleaning, the OIG said a minimized workload would enable staffing adjustments for service and inspections.

The OIG also singled out potential savings opportunities at 11 other maintenance facilities that, depending on the amount of additional inspection work that could be performed, could result in a better use of $1.4 million to $3.9 million.

The OIG audit found that employees worked standard eight-hour shifts even though the sites did not have enough service and inspection work to fill a full shift.

The audit quoted Amtrak managers as saying that staffing levels were based on a historical preference to ensure that sites had a full complement of staff to quickly mitigate incidents that might arise at a site or along a train’s route.

This resulted in inefficiencies, the OIG report said.

Likewise, the OIG found that at four of Amtrak’s 16 major service and inspection sites, there is not enough service and inspection work to fill an eight-hour shift.

Overtime payments above base wages ranged from 11 percent to 38 percent per employee at the sites. Managers at some sites did not know why or how much overtime their employees were earning.

Managers were unable to manage employee overtime or ensure that overtime was necessary.

Better management of overtime could result in an estimated $900,000 to $2.4 million being put to better use.

In a statement, Amtrak officials agreed to implement all of the OIG recommendations contained in the audit.


Amtrak IG Outlines Problems Carrier Must Address

October 5, 2018

A report by Amtrak’s inspector general has highlighted eight areas that the passenger carrier must address in fiscal years 2019 and 2020.

This includes improving safety, noting that Amtrak’s employee and passenger fatalities in thje past year have increased to the highest levels since fiscal year 2015.

The IG also said Amtrak may lack the capacity to handle multiple initiatives simultaneously.

The report said size and scope of the carrier’s ongoing and planned asset purchases make managing any one of them a problem given its history of weaknesses in planning and managing major programs. “Pursuing them concurrently is a daunting undertaking,” the report said.

IG Tom Howard in his report provided a detailed review of each of the problem areas – Safety and Security, Governance, Financial Performance, Asset Management, Customer Service, Acquisition and Procurement, Information Technology, and Human Resources.

However, Howard also noted Amtrak has made progress in some areas. It reduced operating costs to the lowest amount in the past five fiscal years, improved customer relations through a series of focused initiatives, and “institutionalized more effective management processes and tools.”

The report can be downloaded at

Amtrak to Change WUS Project Procedures

August 1, 2018

Following a report from its Office of Inspector General, Amtrak said it will take steps to improve project management processes regarding a series of projects at Washington Union Station.

An audit conducted by the IG found the projects to be at risk of delays and cost overruns.

The projects are part of the Washington Union Station’s 2nd Century Plan. The audit found that there are “weaknesses in [project]scheduling, cost estimating and project management practices.”

The projects are designed to triple passenger capacity and double train capacity over a 20-year period at Amtrak’s second busiest station.

The Amtrak IG recommended that Amtrak use its Enterprise Program Management Office standards and other commonly accepted project management standards such as project charters, an integrated master schedule, well-supported cost estimates and risk mitigation plans.

Amtrak agreed with the recommendations and outlined a schedule to address them. Amtrak’s timeline for the implementation ranges from August 2018 to January 2019 depending on the task.

Amtrak OIG Identifies 8 Challenges Facing Carrier

April 5, 2017

A report released last week by the Amtrak Office of Inspector General has identified eight challenges facing Amtrak management as it seeks to address the passenger rail carrier’s top performance issues.

The OIG has singled out these areas in past reports, including governance, financial excellence, asset management, acquisition and procurement, safety and security, human resource issues, customer service and information technology.

The report said Amtrak has made progress in such matters as replacing aging Acela equipment on the Northeast Corridor.

“Continued management focus is needed to ensure sustained progress,” OIG officials said in the report’s introduction.

Three long-standing and systemic issues that have kept Amtrak from making further progress are:
• Inconsistent use of the company’s strategic goals to drive budget and operating decisions.
• A governance structure that does not hold managers accountable for achieving program results.
• A workforce culture at odds with the company’s goals and mission.

“Until these underlying factors are addressed, the company’s efforts to remediate the top management and performance challenges will continue to face obstacles,” the report stated.

Under current Amtrak President Charles “Wick” Moorman, Amtrak has been implementing organizational changes and attempting to improve oversight and management of core functions.

“Whether these changes and initiatives achieve their intended results will depend on the company’s leadership and top management sustaining its focus on them, providing the necessary resources for implementation and reinforcing that every employee is responsible for embracing and promoting the company’s values of safety, service and financial excellence,” the report said.

Amtrak OIG Urges Budgeting for PTC

October 21, 2016

Amtrak’s Office of Inspector General is urging the passenger carrier to budget for the installation of positive train control.

Amtrak logoIn a report, the OIG, said that although Amtrak has has made strides in implementing automated braking technology, it still has several tasks to complete before it reaches full implementation before the end of a federally-mandated deadline of 2018

The report said Amtrak still needs to complete 33 percent of its planned trackside installations, submit a safety plan to the Federal Railroad Administration, resolve potential radio frequency spectrum issues and install onboard systems in its locomotives.

The OIG report said Amtrak has not properly accounted for the full cost of PTC technology. Those costs may be “millions more than is currently budgeted.”

Amtrak had spent about $183 million on PTC implementation through June 30 and plans to spend about another $35 million through 2018.

But those estimates are “incomplete” and don’t include other potential contingency costs, the OIG report concluded.

The OIG encouraged Amtrak to update its costs estimates in order to ensure that sufficient funds are available for the project and to enhance project schedules to better track the completion of key events and remaining tasks and clarify the roles of managers who are responsible for PTC implementation.

The report said that Amtrak management agreed with all three recommendations.

CAF Production Slowdown Behind Delays in Delivering New Viewliner Cars to Amtrak

March 9, 2016

Delivery of new Amtrak Viewliner cars being built by CAF USA have fallen behind schedule due in part to CAF’s decision to unilaterally slow production of the cars and mechanical defects found in the cars, a report from the Amtrak Office of Inspector General has found.

The report said that the delivery delays are likely to continue as well as increase the cost of the project beyond the original budget.

Amtrak logo“Through December 2015, the delays have resulted in an estimated $7 million increase in overall project costs and a deferral of about $3.7 million in benefits the company expected to accrue from having the cars in revenue service,” the report said. “Our analysis indicates that cost increases and benefit deferrals will continue as the project falls further behind its original schedule.”

The reduction in production at the CAF factory in Elmira, New York, has meant that delivery of the order of 130 cars will not be completed until March 2017, which is two years beyond the original due date. Even that due date is subject to further slippage.

Thus far only baggage cars have been completed and placed into revenue service. Among the key findings of the inspector general’s report are:

  • Weaknesses occurred in CAF’s process for identifying a variety of defects in the baggage cars.
  • Quality issues cropped up with the initial construction of the diner, baggage dormitory and sleeping cars, which are more technically difficult to produce than the baggage cars.
  • Amtrak has experienced project management challenges in addressing these issues. While actions taken by the mechanical department and procurement office resulted in improvements in the daily management of the project, other opportunities exist to improve project management and further mitigate risk by clarifying project accountability, enforcing contract terms and developing a risk mitigation plan.

The report said that Amtrak management has agreed with the recommendations made by the inspector general to address the problems.

Amtrak signed a contract with CAF in 2010 to produce the cars, which were intended to replace equipment now assigned to long-distance trains.

Although most of the Viewliner order was intended for eastern single-level trains, the baggage cars have been assigned to trains throughout the country. The cars were originally scheduled to be completed in November 2014.

The budget for the new equipment was $343 million, which included $300 million to purchase the cars, $29 million for spare parts and $14 million in project management costs.

Amtrak had through December spent sent about $195 million on the project.

CAF and Amtrak agreed in June 2014 to change the order to include 70 baggage cars, 25 diners, 10 baggage-dormitory cars and 25 sleepers. The last cars in the order were given a new delivery due date of no later than April 2016.

A revised timetable negotiated in December 2015 and subject to re-negotiation this year has pushed the final delivery date to March 2017.

For its part, CAF contends that it will lose $41 million on the contract due to having to restructure a contract with a key supplier that is having financial difficulties. The complete report can be found at: