15th May, 2017
Mr. Charles W. Moorman IV
President and Chief Executive Officer
National Railroad Passenger Corporation
50 Massachusetts Avenue NE
Washington DC 20002
AMTRAK AND THE NATIONAL NETWORK
Dear Mr. Moorman:
The Rail Passenger Association of California and Nevada (“RailPAC”) is an all volunteer membership organization that has promoted the improvement andexpansion of passenger rail since 1978. Many of our members spend thousands of dollars each year with Amtrak. Our primary purpose is to advocate sound, value for money services that are both useful transportation and attractive in theirown right. The “value for money” proposition includes taxpayers as well as passengers.
Amtrak does itself, its customers and prospective customers and its employees a deep disservice by undervaluing its largest, and by some objective measures its most successful, group of trains, the national system long distance trains. Candidly Mr. Moorman, we are tired of the shabby treatment meted out to the national network trains. The recent Union Pacific derailment and the subsequent curtailment of the Coast Starlight is a case in point. Curtailment, and later reinstatement of this important service hardly merited a mention on your website. While I understand the difficulties involved with diversions and the provision of buses the failure to adequately publicize the lack of service between Sacramento and Eugene is unforgiveable. It has become the habit of Amtrak to simply turn away your patrons and say that you cannot do anything for them. A BNSF representative stated that Amtrak had not requested BNSF to divert the train via Keddie and Bieber. It is hard to believe that the option was not at least explored.
We have seen some improvements in the standard of service on individual trains over the years, thanks to the initiative of dedicated and creative local managers. Just as these improvements are taking effect and the bottom line improves the momentum is scotched by budget cuts that have minimal impact on costs but result in a deteriorating product and reduced revenues. This pattern has just been repeated with the “reorganization” that has eliminated the positions of the commercial managers who were responsible for the western long distance trains. How can you expect to run a successful fleet of mobile hotels and restaurants without hands on management? Can you imagine for example the cruise industry operating in this way?
Mr. Charles W. Moorman IV
15th May, 2017
We simply do not buy in to the premise that the long distance trains are a burden. It has to be a far better business proposition to sell long haul transportation over infrastructure that is rented compared to selling short haul trips over infrastructure that you own. It is clear from NRPC’s announcements that the profits claimed for the NEC are at best misleading. It is easy to show a profit if you exclude the greater part of your costs. These include such items as day today maintenance, which are counted as capital expenditures. If your claims of profitability are dubious then why should we accept your claims of losses on the long distance trains?
The decision to make no investments in new rolling stock for the national network trains is a decision to discontinue those trains in the not too distant future. RailPAC does not believe that you have the right to make that decision. Amtrak, the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, still has a statutory obligation to maintain and operate a national network and the Federal Government gives you an annual stipend to carry out that task.
Amtrak must rethink how it uses the capital that the country provides to it every year, so that the benefits are more equitably distributed among the people who contribute it. Your most under capitalized markets are in the west, yet year after year, decade after decade, nearly all the capital goes into the northeast, which is by far your smallest market with the least upside for intercity passenger miles. Amtrak cannot improve its results or its role in providing intercity transport by repeating the same strategies over and over again. Now is the time to begin investing a much greater share of your capital resources into all of your western markets. The place to begin is the replacement and expansion of the Superliner fleet, and the locomotives that haul the trains.
I hope I’ll have the opportunity to meet with you to discuss these issues.
Paul J. Dyson, President
cc Hon. Elaine Chou, US Secretary of Transportation
cc Mr. Anthony R. Coscia, Chairman of the Board, NRPC
cc RailPAC Board and interested parties.