After months of having to endure mostly cold boxed food—what some critics dubbed “Unhappy Meals”—on two Amtrak long-distance route, the New York-Chicago Lake Shore Limited (Trains 48/448 and 49/449) and the Washington D.C.-Chicago Capitol Limited (Trains 29 and 30), sleeping car passengers on those trains now have can choose from several hot food choices on the menu.
Five nominations for rail transportation federal leadership posts were announced Jan. 16 by President Trump. All are nominees from the previous session of Congress, and were cleared by respective Senate oversight committees for confirmation on the Senate floor—but none advanced for a floor vote prior to the Senate adjourning.
Apparently, only as a fortunate consequence of the partial federal government shutdown, the U.S. Senate returned to the Administration its three proposed appointees to Amtrak’s Board of Directors. Rather than an outright rejection, a fair question would be: Does the U.S. Senate operate in such a bubble that it acts like the House of Romanov that everything is fine with Amtrak? Is the Senate in such bi-partisan denial that it does not see Amtrak as a failing State-Owned Enterprise (SOE)?
New Jersey calls itself “The Crossroads of the Revolution” in its promotional literature and advertisements. Not only was it centrally located during America’s War for Independence, but its troops under George Washington were tested against both the heat and the British at the Battle of Monmouth in June, 1778 and against the coldest winter of the century, 1779-80, at Morristown. Both times, and on other occasions, it met the challenges and went on to help establish our nation.
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.
Regrettably, Stephen Gardner’s year-end response to the many op-eds appearing this past year in Railway Age (“Amtrak A ‘Failure’? Hardly. Here’s How We See It,” Dec. 20) fails to explicitly answer the factual issues previously raised here. Instead, his retort to the decisive points raised in op-ed and editorial pieces this year reads very hollow, ignoring the salient issues and making excuses for what could not be achieved. Throwing questionable data around these issues prevents concise, acceptable answers.
Today, as well as for most of its existence, Amtrak has had both its supporters and detractors focused on numbers—numbers of passengers, dollars of investment, size of deficits, miles of rail service, and statistical comparisons with others. There is a passion here that drives interest, much like the passion of sports fans immersed in statistics.
Amtrak will acquire 75 new Siemens Charger diesel locomotives for $850 million to replace aging power in its National Network locomotive fleet.
Over the past eight months, Railway Age has published 31 op-eds about Amtrak—many more than it published on the freight railroad, railroad supply and transit industries combined. The majority focused on long-distance trains, which account for only 15% of Amtrak ridership, and their dining car food. Most of the others depicted Amtrak as a “failure” facing “the sword of Damocles,” to quote one op-ed author. They urged privatization of Amtrak’s operations and Northeast Corridor infrastructure, and “open access” to freight railroads’ lines for new passenger rail operators.
In follow-up to my previously published article in Railway Age (“Does the Emperor Wear No Clothes?” June 23, 2017) critically analyzing why would Amtrak put sleeper compartments on sale without any black-out dates during the last part of summer and Thanksgiving, “There ya go again, Mr. Anderson!”