A recent article in the WSJ spoke about Richard Anderson – previously the boss at Delta – who took over at Amtrak and has nearly eliminated Amtrak’s operating losses. That sounds great, but ironically many are not happy about the changes.
The company was bleeding money on many of its long distance routes – as this chart shows. It also shows that the NE route is funding the rest of the routes.
He saw his role as treating Amtrak like a business rather than a social utility, and that has brought some significant changes. He has cut some long-distance train routes and instead offered more frequent service where demand and the population is growing. This has not gone down well in rural states and districts that to some extent rely on long-haul train routes.
He has upped many fees including those charged to local commuter lines for use of the infrastructure.
His view is that the sooner Amtrak can show that it can turn a profit, the sooner it can attract private-sector investment to help the government fund needed improvements. This feels like a lesson he learned in his aerospace days as the airline industry relied on the use of public infrastructure
As with all things, this seems to be a question of balance. Some “subsidy” is likely needed to cover the losses/costs of less well travelled routes. They cannot all be like the lucrative North East corridor, yet they provide service and access to many less well connected cities and communities.
We hope a balance can be struck to provide the services. The challenge will come as infrastructure replacement is needed and investment becomes critical.
Device Technology has a partnership with Alstom and Siemens who make the Amtrak rolling stock, and that relationship is predicated on being a US supplier who can meet the stringent technical and safety requirements needed. The end benefit to Amtrak is a high quality, high performance product (grommet edging and enclosure seals) with on time delivery to keep trains running.