Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson and his chief deputy, Stephen Gardner, have proposed eliminating the company’s interregional trains in favor of a scattering of discontiguous, higher frequency short corridors connecting nearby city pairs. But this reflects a deep misapprehension of the performance of the company’s three primary business groups, and a surprising emphasis on minimizing the returns on investment of the company’s capital resources.
Author: Andrew Selden
Amtrak Senior Executive Vice President Stephen Gardner’s response to Railway Age’s recent coverage of Amtrak encapsulates perfectly why Amtrak is such a rolling financial and commercial disaster. It also shows that Amtrak’s senior leadership is either deep in the well of self-delusion, or possibly intentionally misleading its various stakeholders.
Underlying the ancient aphorism “be careful what you wish for … because you might get it” is the law of unintended consequences.
What does a deflated balloon look like? That is becoming an apt metaphor for travel on an Amtrak interregional train. The regime of CEO Richard Anderson is eliminating services and amenities as fast as they can think up items to ditch.
Amtrak is embarked upon an aggressive plan to “de-staff” the majority of its stations, to “cut costs.” The project downgrades the service support for its largest and most commercially successful group of trains, the long-distance interregional services. Amtrak justifies this by the trend toward selling tickets on the web rather than from agents at stations.
Passenger trains don’t operate in a vacuum. They compete for business against air and motor vehicles. The results of the competition are reflected in, and measured by, their respective market share. Automobiles win the competition for the great majority of intercity travel, even in the highest-density corridors.