Troubling comments from Richard Anderson, President of AMTRAK at a Southern California rail summit of 150 passenger rail officials, industry professionals and a handful of advocates.
Paul Dyson, President of RAILPAC, a West Coast rail advocacy organization, said in a posting that Anderson indicated Amtrak’s market opportunity is in corridors of 100 to 400 miles and would be operated by lighter weight Diesel Multiple Units (DMU's). His concept is something like an Acela train with diesel power.
Dyson asked if this means there will be no more long-distance trains. Anderson, his demeanor angry and agitated according to Dyson, said the long-distance trains cost $750 million a year to operate and that corridors are better. Anderson said only 4% of passengers travel end to end. Under PRIIA he believes that he has to operate at lower cost and more competitively. “That’s what the law says”. Anderson said “there is some room for experience travel” but did not elaborate. Dyson said that this would need investment by the States and cooperation by the freight railroads. Dyson noted that he did not specifically say that the long-distance trains would go, only that corridors are the future.
Dyson said he felt that "this is how Anderson will restructure Amtrak and destroy a connected national system. I have the feeling he expected the audience to be in agreement with him as many there represented the State Corridors. By terminating the long-distance trains and establishing state supported corridors in their place there will be a further transfer of dollars to the NEC. It also means that Amtrak will not have to expend any of its capital budget on renewing or augmenting the Surfliner fleet and P42 locomotives. Any replacements will be charged to the States with their cost plus formula".
In other comments posted to the RAILPAC site Anderson remarked on fleet renewal and focused on the Amfleet Ones that are 45 years old and operating under FRA waiver, and the P42 locomotives. They will be replaced by DMUs and a few locomotives. The P42s are unreliable, forcing them to use two units instead of one. “I don’t like carrying a spare”. The locomotives are Tier Zero and operate with an EPA waiver, which “they would not get if a private company”. There was no mention of new equipment to replace the Superliner fleet.
Anderson claimed that Amtrak is “debt free” and is “stockpiling cash” for fleet renewals, seven year contracts have been signed with all unions and that enforcement of passenger priority on the Class Ones has never been enforced but that they were “working” with the freights to improve matters.
According to Dyson's post, Anderson is very concerned about safety and noted that airline safety is superior to rail. He seems to be shocked at the concept of dark territory, although he did not repeat his threat to cease operations on those routes. PTC implementation is continuing and is very complex as a tenant on 20 railroads. Amtrak is hiring more Road Foremen to help their engineers improve safety, and they have upgraded their route qualification rules.