Amtrak improves LD food service October 1

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Amtrak improves LD food service October 1
Posted by charlie hebdo on Friday, September 13, 2019 7:35 PM
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Posted by Convicted One on Friday, September 13, 2019 8:24 PM

??? I couldn't find Anderson mentioned anywhere in the linked story.  Dead

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Friday, September 13, 2019 10:15 PM

Convicted One

??? I couldn't find Anderson mentioned anywhere in the linked story.  Dead

 

Some folks on here think Anderson is sabotaging LD services,  such as food,  to drive away customers to drop it.  The article does not mention Anderson,  but it is logical to deduce that Anderson would not approve of improving LD food if he was intent on sabotage.  

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Posted by Overmod on Saturday, September 14, 2019 10:42 AM

Buried near the end of the story is what may be big news, if phrased correctly; perhaps even deserving of its own thread.

Roger Harris noted this:

 Roger Harris, Amtrak chief marketing and revenue officer, said the line expects to break even for the first time next year.  “We believe the right way is to deliver a company that pays for itself,” Harris said. “We are for the first time in history in sight of covering all our operating costs on an annual basis."

(Note that I have long been of the opinion that Anderson's provocative actions have been in line with achieving the Congressional mandate for profitable operation by 2020 'by other means' ... or spurring enough legislators to make changes to that mandate or exceptions to particular approaches Amtrak takes.)

The immediate question is, now that he has said this, whether he will give a complete 'accounting-enabled' explanation of how Amtrak does this.  (I am assuming that "the line" in the story refers to Amtrak, the NRPC, and not just some subset of it).  It is surprisingly big news that Amtrak thinks it can achieve complete above-the-line profitability in both corridor and LD operations -- perhaps part of the idea is to run increased high-margin service with the new Avelias to put more 'operating profit' in the kitty as a whole?

Of course, much of the actual cost, especially leveraged for the long-distance services, is not being included in 'compliance with the mandate':

Amtrak will continue to rely on the federal government for its capital improvements, including stations, tracks and rolling stock.

Will we see a breakout, either explicit or 'following from the numbers reported', of the maintenance and periodic upgrade-in-place expenses for the equipment as distinct from the mandated 'operating profitability'?

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Posted by Convicted One on Saturday, September 14, 2019 11:10 AM

I'm not convinced that the two (trains of thought) are necessarily mutually exclusive. 

He could just as easily be tying a ribbon around it before he buries it. (aka "we tried our best, but nothing worked,  the situation was beyond hope")

It's  nice to see they are trying to do something nice, so I really appreciate your posting this. But I'm highly reluctant to speculate that this signifies a shift back towards the halcyon days.

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Saturday, September 14, 2019 1:29 PM

Hardly the halcyon days of old.  More like modern,  efficient food preparation of passenger rail as done elsewhere with a convection oven, I believe. 

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Posted by Convicted One on Saturday, September 14, 2019 2:50 PM

That still does nothing to prove Anderson's actual motives. One way or the other.

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Posted by runnerdude48 on Saturday, September 14, 2019 3:36 PM

Convicted One

That still does nothing to prove Anderson's actual motives. One way or the other.

 

The only person who truly knows Anderson's motives is Anderson himself.  I personally think he is the last best hope to keep Amtrak alive in some form.  Though probably not in the form that railfans enjoy.  They seem to want to hold onto the obsolete 1950s business plan that has proven in the past and present to be a failure.

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Saturday, September 14, 2019 4:23 PM

Convicted One

That still does nothing to prove Anderson's actual motives. One way or the other.

 

Possibly, but not probable.  Life is about probabilities. No one said prove except you.  Is it likely you would buy a new car if your plan was to junk it in a year?  Maybe YOU would to fool people but it's doubtful. 

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Posted by Convicted One on Saturday, September 14, 2019 4:25 PM

runnerdude48
 The only person who truly knows Anderson's motives is Anderson himself.  I personally think he is the last best hope to keep Amtrak alive in some form.  Though probably not in the form that railfans enjoy.  They seem to want to hold onto the obsolete 1950s business plan that has proven in the past and present to be a failure.

 

 

I agree with everything you say. Sometimes I read stuff here where I just have to bite my lip and remember this is a railfan forum ("consider the source" basically).

There is one argument in particular that I find offensive, usually based along the lines of "since the government is subsidizing airlines and highways, they OWE it to passenger rail as well"...as though spending taxpayer money is a  competitive sport.

Specific to this thread topic, the argument that the taxpayer should not be compelled to subsidize passenger meals makes perfect sense to me and I agree completely. Obviously any extras and enhancements made to meal services is only going to add to the deficit. So, "better meals" might be a bad thing, actually.

If passengers expect good meals then they should be prepared to pay  for them,...end of argument IMO.  "Meals included with fare" might be an obsolete concept in today's reality.  So too might be the expectation of pheasant under glass or Chateaubriand to be on the menu,..... period.

But, offering the customer a choice of a pre  made, pre packaged tuna fish sandwich or a nice burger, or even a 'Golden Corral" quality steak while in transit, based upon the customer's willingness to pay for the level of service they expect....does not seem to be at all unreasonable.

Especially in context with the long distance trains...where a virtual monopoly might exist, I'm surprised that some entrepreneurial spirit hasn't come forward  to solve the problem at a profit. You'd think there would be some Ray Kroc or Dave Thomas like person out there just salivating to  corner their market three days at a time.

I suspect that part of  problem  with the current mindset has mostly to do with cost accounting  method and accelerated depreciation where the cost of every nut and rivet in the dining cars must be recovered in 7 years, even if the cars themselves last 20.

I know only too well that if the one giving orders to the bean counters doesn't want to do something, with a little creative book keeping almost any worthwhile project can be branded 'cost prohibitive'.   My 2 Cents

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Saturday, September 14, 2019 4:30 PM

Did you read the article? The improvements are supposed to be not just in quality but in efficiencies. The law mandates this to happen soon,  I recall by ~2020.

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Posted by CMStPnP on Sunday, September 15, 2019 4:17 AM

Anderson is on record before Congress as supporting the continuance of Long Distance trains if they are properly funded to the point where they can be properly run and marketed.  Specifically he mentioned preserving LD trains such as the Empire Builder and Coast Starlight that traversed scenic routes and had potential for significant financial improvement.     He was against running all LD trains just to maintain an every state gets a piece of the LD train network and though he did not mention which ones he didn't like.   Pretty sure the Sunset Limited and Cardinal are on the cut list and possibly a few others.

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Posted by JPS1 on Sunday, September 15, 2019 8:30 AM

CMStPnP
 Anderson is on record before Congress as supporting the continuance of Long Distance trains if they are properly funded to the point where they can be properly run and marketed.  Specifically he mentioned preserving LD trains such as the Empire Builder and Coast Starlight that traversed scenic routes and had potential for significant financial improvement.     He was against running all LD trains just to maintain an every state gets a piece of the LD train network and though he did not mention which ones he didn't like.   Pretty sure the Sunset Limited and Cardinal are on the cut list and possibly a few others. 

Where can I find Anderson's comments?  I would like to read them.

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Posted by JPS1 on Sunday, September 15, 2019 8:41 AM

Convicted One
I suspect that part of  problem  with the current mindset has mostly to do with cost accounting  method and accelerated depreciation where the cost of every nut and rivet in the dining cars must be recovered in 7 years, even if the cars themselves last 20. 

As per Page 14 of Amtrak's 2018 Consolidated Financial Statement, the company depreciates locomotives, cars, and other rolling stock over a period up to 40 years.  Moreover, they group assets for depreciation, so the dining cars could be lumped in with the other cars bought during the same period.   

Why would they depreciate the dining cars for just seven 7 years or attempt to recover the cost of the cars in 7 years?  

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Posted by Convicted One on Sunday, September 15, 2019 9:35 AM

JPS1
As per Page 14 of Amtrak's 2018 Consolidated Financial Statement, the company depreciates locomotives, cars, and other rolling stock over a period up to 40 years.  Moreover, they group assets for depreciation, so the dining cars could be lumped in with the other cars bought during the same period.   

Why would they depreciate the dining cars for just seven 7 years? 

 

As I recall it, I believe there was a story in Trains magazine back in the 2003-2007 time period that claimed they had gone to a 7 year period because of excessive wear and tear....this claim at the time  was specific to sleepers.

Why would a company do this? Well I'd imagine that concentrating ones "costs" into a shorter time frame has certain advantages based upon how they are funded, wouldn't you?

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Sunday, September 15, 2019 10:11 AM

CMStPnP

Anderson is on record before Congress as supporting the continuance of Long Distance trains if they are properly funded to the point where they can be properly run and marketed.  Specifically he mentioned preserving LD trains such as the Empire Builder and Coast Starlight that traversed scenic routes and had potential for significant financial improvement.     He was against running all LD trains just to maintain an every state gets a piece of the LD train network and though he did not mention which ones he didn't like.   Pretty sure the Sunset Limited and Cardinal are on the cut list and possibly a few others.

 

And if the aren't,  they should be.  Not unless Congress gives LD a separate budget for a mission other than passenger transportation. 

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Posted by Convicted One on Sunday, September 15, 2019 12:53 PM

JPS1
As per Page 14 of Amtrak's 2018 Consolidated Financial Statement, the company depreciates locomotives, cars, and other rolling stock over a period up to 40 years

FWIW, I would enjoy the opportunity to review this information first hand, and would greatly appreciate it if you could direct me to an available on line source.

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Posted by CMStPnP on Sunday, September 15, 2019 6:01 PM

JPS1
Where can I find Anderson's comments?  I would like to read them.

I believe it was Trains Newswire or one of the blogs on this very website, nevertheless using Google and the information I gave I found the video which gave his full remarks which I summarized...........starts at approx a little over 29 min into the video:

https://www.c-span.org/video/?462105-1/amtrak-services-operations

 

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Posted by daveklepper on Monday, September 16, 2019 4:51 AM

Since no answer was received, I see no problem in posting:

29 Sivan 5779, 2 July '19
Mr. Richard Anderson, CEO and President
Amtrak, Union Station, 50 Massachusetts Avenue
Washington, DC 20002,  U. S. A.
Dear Mr. Anderson,
I am writing, first, to state the case for Amtrak and particularly long-distance passenger service,  This service is essential, absolutely essential, for that portion of the elderly and handicapped population that cannot fly and cannot endure long auto or bus trips to access the Continental United States.  Removal of those trains would limit the travel of those citizens to regions of about 120 miles  around their homes.  With respect to the overall travel industry, Amtrak’s long distance service can be compared to the hard-of-hearing systems, handicapped ramps and elevators, that get subsidized by general ticket sales to entertainment industry patrons that never use them,  But depriving grandchildren of a visit from their grandparents hurts the children as well as the grandparents.  That is probably the reason most Americans want the service to continue, as reflected in the votes of their elected representatives,
 
But these trains do more.  They provide the very best way for foreign tourists to visit and know the landscape, and even the people of the country.  In winter in parts of the Northwest, the Empire Builder train prevents the isolation of many communities.  And these trains have been useful in emergencies when planes are grounded.
 
But I believe the area where Amtrak loses the most money, food service, can be a profit center,  Imagine if every Amtrak station in large cities had a high-quality full-service restaurant, popular because of its fair prices and excellent quality, and each had a take -out and home-office-and-party delivery.  Then on-train food service would be simply a small portion of the take-out and delivery business of this restaurant chain, with the cooking done at the restaurants, and with economies of scale, would be profitable.
 
I wish to commend your idea to restore overnight sleeper service on the Northeast Corridor.  A market the old service never addressed is serving holiday, weekend, and other vacation trips to Colonial Williamsburg.
 
I must point out that even a dark, unsignalled railroad, operated only by train orders, is still safer than any public highway.  But the track segment where only one Southwest Chief operates each way each day is currently equipped with automatic block signals and automatic train-stop.  Given the safety record of this segment, adding Positive Train Control would accomplish far, far less for safety than by using such money for grade-crossing improvement or elimination..
 
Amtrak should reclaim, overhaul, and regear two AEM-7s for switcher use at Sunnyside, Queens. Overly expensive ventilation for diesels won’t be required for the air-rights development.
Best wishes,
 
 
David Lloyd (ben Yaacov Yehuda) Klepper, student of the Yeshiva, USA Army Veteran, and co-author of Worship Space Acoustics, J. Ross publishers, Fort Lauderdale 2010, jrosspub.com

 

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Posted by CMStPnP on Monday, September 16, 2019 6:54 AM

daveklepper
Imagine if every Amtrak station in large cities had a high-quality full-service restaurant, popular because of its fair prices and excellent quality, and each had a take -out and home-office-and-party delivery. 

How do you propose paying the going rate for a restaurant laborer without precipitating a larger labor union issue on undercutting the salaries and benefits of the commissary and onboard prep and server folks?   I could even see it precipitating a union organized strike against Amtrak.

daveklepper
I must point out that even a dark, unsignalled railroad, operated only by train orders, is still safer than any public highway. 

You have to also convince both the NTSB and FRA on that.  Currently the stance of the NTSB is no exceptions on PTC on the Southwest Chief route or anywhere on the National Rail Network and that financial penalities be assessed after January 1, 2020 for any railroad track not in compliance.   NTSB is against waivers of any kind whatsoever.    Only caveat is for some commuter rail systems which the NTSB seems to have a soft spot in it's heart for.    Anderson is on record before Congress as agreeing 100% with the NTSB on their PTC stance.      It is actually in that CSPAN video I posted above your post if you watch the video to the end.

Your argument was presented more or less via a Colorado Rail Passenger advocacy group and then disagreed publicly by Anderson and the NTSB.    Congress seems to be listening carefully to the NTSB on this since the PTC mandate is from the 1990's and has been continually pushed back via railroad delays and according to NTSB the delays had nothing to do with technology not being ready or available it had more to do with railroads dragging their feet.    Which has led NTSB to the hard line stance it has adopted today (again explained in the video link above).

Also, raised was the signal shunting issue Amtrak is having to face on the Saluki line in Illinois as well as the Missouri River Runner Line.     Congress is on that issue like flies on you know what as they are interpreting it as malfunctioning signaling systems the Class One railroads are not fixing which Amtrak is struggling with.   Again in the video above.   Expect that to be escalated soon by Congress.

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Posted by daveklepper on Monday, September 16, 2019 11:32 AM

Over a period of time, the transition to the food service via station restaurant plan could be in effect.  Attrition, well-paid restaurant posiitons, relocation within Amtrak, etc.  Politics does not alter the simple facts of the safety issue.  Convicing is necessary.

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Posted by daveklepper on Monday, September 16, 2019 12:04 PM

A good presentation before the relevant Congressional committees might do the job.

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Posted by JPS1 on Monday, September 16, 2019 6:21 PM

Convicted One
 JPS1 As per Page 14 of Amtrak's 2018 Consolidated Financial Statement, the company depreciates locomotives, cars, and other rolling stock over a period up to 40 years.

FWIW, I would enjoy the opportunity to review this information first hand, and would greatly appreciate it if you could direct me to an available on line source. 

Unless you are an accountant, you are the first person that I have encountered who would enjoy reading the notes to the financial statements.  

You can find Amtrak's audited Consolidated Financial statements at Amtrak.com. 

Launch the webpage and scowl down to About Amtrak at the bottom of the page.  Click on the gray About Amtrak which appears immediately under the column headed About Amtrak.

Under Reports and Documents click View All Reports and Documents.  Under Annual Reports and Consolidated Financial Statements, click on Audited Financial Statements - Fiscal Year 2018.  You can also select 2017, 2016, 2015, and 2014.  This will open the .pdf file that you can read online or download.  

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Posted by Convicted One on Monday, September 16, 2019 6:47 PM

JPS1
Unless you are an accountant, you are the first person that I have encountered who would enjoy reading the notes to the financial statements.  

Yeah, I'm kind of peculiar that way. MANY moons ago I was a business major and took 4 semesters of accounting as part of my credit fill. Mid-way through the second semester my prof called me aside and noted I seemed to have a natural aptitude, and encouraged me to change majors. I was flattered, but told him I wanted to spend my time counting my own money, not somebody else's.

Thanks for the other info.

The reason why the Trains article I mentioned resonated with me, I was making a trip from Los Angeles to Northern Indiana bcakn in late 2000, and on a lark I considered taking Amtrak.

I was appalled at the add-on cost for the sleeper...in addition to  basic coach. I guess I carried a bit of a grudge over that. And  just a few years later saw the story in Trains magazine that I referenced earlier.  

Didn't make me any happier, but at least it explained why I was unhappy in a context I could understand.

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