Amtrak FY 2017 financials: Gains across the board

Written by William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief
image description

Amtrak reported ridership, revenue and earnings results for its Fiscal Year 2017 that despite showing mostly modest increases, nevertheless set records in several categories. The company’s fiscal year ended ended Sept. 30, 2017.

Amtrak’s 31.7 million passenger trips were a 1.5% increase over FY 2016. Total revenue of $3.2 billion increased 1.1% over the prior-year period. Operating losses (unaudited, adjusted) of $194 million improved 15.7% over FY 2016. In ridership, Amtrak achieved year-over-year increases from FY 2016 for all service lines:

• Northeast Corridor (NEC): 12 million riders, a 1% increase and the NEC’s highest ridership year ever.

• State Supported Services: 15 million riders, a 2.1% gain.

• Long-Distance Routes: 4.6 million riders, a 0.9% increase.

• Amtrak’s farebox recovery rate—The percentage of operating costs covered by ticket sales and other revenues—was 94.7%, a new record.

Other FY 2017 accomplishments:

• Completed more than $420 million of state-of-good-repair and renewal infrastructure work, including significant track replacement, numerous projects in the New York area, and a new maintenance facility in Seattle.

• Began a major Infrastructure Renewal program at New York Penn Station, which accelerated important construction work. Amtrak installed 897 track ties, 1,100 feet of rail, 1,000 tons of ballast, 7 turnouts 4 complex diamond crossings, and 176 yards of concrete.

• In coordination with state partners in Illinois, Wisconsin, Oregon and Washington, deployed state-purchased Siemens Charger diesel locomotives on certain routes, “enhancing customer comfort, safety, reliability and emissions levels.”

• Designated a Master Developer for Chicago Union Station for a six-year, $1 billion redevelopment of the station and adjacent property. Amtrak is also continuing a multi-year repair program of the station’s Great Hall atrium.

• Streamlined Amtrak’s senior management structure “for increased organizational effectiveness, better alignment with the account structure created in the FAST (Fixing America’s Surface Transportation) Act, and greater transparency to customers and stakeholders.”

• Continued “deleveraging” its balance sheet, decreasing total debt from $3.3 billion at Sept. 30, 2007 to $1.2 billion at Sept. 30, 2017, a reduction of 64% over the 10-year period.

• Launched a new Winter Park Express in Colorado, serving more than 18,000 customers.

• Invested in customer enhancements such as new Amfleet I car interiors and improved Wi-Fi service on Acela Express trains.

• More than 80% of customers are using Amtrak’s self-service channels for reservations and ticketing.

• Increased membership in the Amtrak Guest Rewards program by 19%.

• Launched a national partnership with Lyft; 80% of Amtrak customers who have used Lyft indicate it makes their Amtrak trip easier. Amtrak “will explore opportunities with additional travel partners in 2018 to provide additional connectivity to and from Amtrak trains.”

• Completed “Project unITy,” a corporate-wide effort to “integrate, simplify and centralize technology and data services to better meet customer expectations and foster easier communication among Amtrak’s national workforce.”

“Amtrak had a record-breaking year in 2017,” said Co-CEO Wick Moorman. “To our customers and partners, we thank you for your business. To our employees, we commend you on your dedication and service. More and more people are choosing rail travel and for good reason. Amtrak offers a more comfortable and convenient travel experience with great amenities such as free Wi-Fi on most trains, plenty of leg room, and no middle seat.”

“We provided a vital transportation service to more customers and created strong value for the federal investment,” said Amtrak Board Chair Tony Coscia. “And we’re going to do even better. Over the next several years, we’re aiming to cover total operating costs from ticket and other revenues by strengthening our services and continuing to drive efficiency. To do this, we are making investments in tracks and stations, on our trains, and in the delivery of customer service so that we can serve more customers with a better experience.”