What does "underfunded" mean when the NEC is said to be the one portion of Amtrak with an operating ratio below 100%? The NEC turns a profit by whatever accounting method, a sparse network of long-distance trains is supported by cross-subsidy and appropriation from Congress, and the other corridor trains are at least in part supported by the individual states?
I am no supporter of ATK, except in the NEC where it does provide a usefull and competitive service.
Under funded as a term of railroad art means that all of the revenue streams are not adequate to support all of ATK's operations and to maintain the NEC to a standard of normalized maintenance sufficient to safely and reliably support the operating demands made on it.
Limiting our examination to the NEC, the vaunted "operating profit" is a political chimera. It does not cover equipment amortization, which is several times more than the "operating profit". I do not know how ATK accounts for the cost of "routine" track maintenance or program maintenance, which since ATK owns and maintains the fixed plant is in the range of at least $100,000,000 per year just for routine track maintenance. New tunnels and new bridges are capital expenditures in the billions.
If you look at Class I practices you will see that they tout this year's $X billion capital budget. Read more carefully and you will see that the majority of the capital budget goes for capitalized maintenace, which for the sake of simplicity we will say is large rail, tie, and ballast programs. They are accounted for as a capital investment in year zero, and then amortized (expensed) over the life of the asset. There are also pure expense items, like the wages of track inspectors. Expenses appear in the operating, not capital budget. At the shortline I worked for I always figured we expensed small quantities of rail and ties consumed in spot repair/replacement. We bought each of our three section gangs 1,000 ties per year for spot work as they saw fit, for example. This is all just maintenance of the existing capacity. New track, new cars, new locomotives, PTC, new computers and programs, and new or expanded Intermodal Terminals go in various OTHER Capex budgets.
Underfunded means that the MofW department does not get enough money to keep up with normal wear and tear of the fixed plant, regardless of whether funds are in capital budget or the expense budget. When your MofW department is underfunded trains fall into wide gauge in a switch in the station throat.
Underfunded also means that big, hunky bridge and tunnel capital projects do not get funded.