Amtrak Reports Record-Setting FY2019

Written by William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief
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According to Amtrak’s preliminary Fiscal Year 2019 (Oct. 1, 2018-Sept. 30, 2019) report, the railroad set ridership, revenue and financial performance records toward its FY 2020 goal of “achieving operational break-even.”

Preliminary results for FY2019 include operating revenue of $3.3 billion, a 3.6% increase over FY2018; an operating loss of $29.8 million, a $140.9 million, or 82.6% improvement, from FY2018’s $170.6 million operating loss; capital investment of $1.6 billion, 9.4% higher than the prior year; and 32.5 million customer trips, a year-over-year increase of 800,000.

Amtrak also noted that it implemented a Safety Management System and expanded Positive Train Control (PTC) operations “resulting in improvements in a broad range of safety metrics. In FY2019, Amtrak was the first major U.S.-based railroad to implement a Safety Management System, a proactive approach to managing safety, resulting in significant improvements, including a 26% reduction in customer incidents; 72% fewer serious employee injuries; a 10% reduction in Federal Railroad Administration-reportable injuries; and a 3% reduction in trespasser and grade crossing incidents.”

Additionally, PTC installation “was completed on nearly all Amtrak-owned and controlled track,” except for about one mile of restricted-speed track in the Chicago Terminal area.

Among the $1.6 billion in capital investments:

• A $437 million program to refresh interiors on the entire Acela Northeast Corridor (NEC) fleet ($4 million) and Amfleet II cars for Coach class along the East Coast. Amtrak began offering assigned seating for customers traveling in Acela First Class, launched Acela Nonstop (express New York-Washington D.C. service) and expanded weekend Acela frequencies.

• NEC state-of-good-repair programs totaling $713 million for repair or replacement of 24,080 feet of catenary, 79,985 concrete ties and 1,784 bridge ties, and 283 miles of high-speed surfacing.

• Manufacturing continues on the new Alstom Acela NEC fleet, with the first equipment scheduled to begin revenue service in 2021.

• An $850 million contract was awarded to Siemens for 75 new Charger diesel-electric locomotives to replace part of the National Network locomotive fleet.

• A Request for Proposals (RFP) was issued for a new fleet of single-level passenger railcars to replace Amfleet I cars, the oldest in the fleet.

• Amtrak’s $143 million station improvement program included installation of a digital train announcement board at Philadelphia 30th Street Station (NEC); enhanced Metropolitan Lounges in Washington Union Station, Boston South Station, 30th Street Station (all NEC) and the Great Hall at Chicago Union Station; commercial close for $90 million of improvements at Baltimore Penn Station (NEC); and renewed service at Springfield (Mass.) Union Station, which included new passenger amenities.

• Other capital investments were $78 million for ADA-related design and construction improvement projects at more than 40 locations nationwide, and $110 million in technology, including an updated customer mobile app. Amtrak also began development of an “omnichannel strategy to enable customers to easily complete purchases, access information and engage in transactions across multiple channels.”

Amtrak said that nearly 90% of customers responding to a survey “expressed overall satisfaction with their experience. We achieved a year-over-year increase in customer satisfaction scores in many categories, including clean train interiors, restroom cleanliness and information about delays. Acela and Northeast Regional customers noticed improvements and were increasingly likely to recommend Amtrak to family, friends, and colleagues.”

Amtrak did not specify if the customer satisfaction survey was conducted for services outside the NEC.

On-time terminal departure performance “was strong, with 93% of trains across the system departing on time,” Amtrak said. “The strongest performance was on the NEC, where trains departed on time from Washington, D.C. Union Station more than 97% of the time.”

Amtrak did not report on-time arrival figures for any of its services. On-time performance on the National Network (freight railroad-owned right-of-way) has been suffering. Ridership on long-distance trains was up less than 1%.

NEC and State Supported services “all experienced record growth in ridership,” Amtrak said, with Acela at 4.3%, Northeast Regional at 2.9% and State-Supported services at 2.4%. The company “Collaborated with state partners to expand the Amtrak network, including launching the Valley Flyer (a new state-supported service in Western Massachusetts); adjusted the San Joaquins schedule to better accommodate weekend leisure travelers; increased schedules on the Northeast Regional to Norfolk, Va. and the Bosrton-Portland, Me., Downeaster; and added a new Green Bay-Milwaukee Amtrak Thruway Bus Service connecting with the Hiawatha trains.”

This year, Amtrak received a credit upgrade to ‘A’ from S&P and an affirmation of an ‘A1’ credit rating by Moody’s, “reflecting significantly reduced operating losses and a stronger balance sheet, with no net debt,” the company said, adding that FY2019 was the first full year in which all congressionally-mandated state and commuter partner cost-sharing agreements (under (PRIIA) have been in effect.

For sustainability, Amtrak said it “exceeded or met all annual energy, fuel, recycling and greenhouse gas emissions targets, with the support of all employees. Efforts such as lighting upgrades, reduced idling, and a focused recycling program helped Amtrak meet these targets and save money. Since 2010, Amtrak has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 17%.”

Categories: C&S, Commuter/Regional, High Performance, Intercity, Locomotives, Mechanical, News, Passenger, PTC Tags: ,