Since taking over last fall as the CEO of Amtrak, Charles “Wick” Moorman has given hints here and there about his vision of America’s national intercity rail passenger carrier.
Columnists and editors of Trains magazine sat down with Moorman in December to discuss that vision.
Columnist Don Phillips was there and wrote about it for the March issue of the magazine that will be in subscriber mailboxes soon.
Phillips recently sent advance copies of his columns to those on an email list that he maintains. Presumably, there will be another report in the March issue written by the magazine’s passenger rail correspondent.
Moorman told the Trains representatives that he sees a future for long-distance passenger trains, but it is less clear if he sees any expansion of them.
He does see potential growth in medium-distance service, which is paid for by the states.
The proposed restoration of service along the Gulf Coast east of New Orleans has been gaining political support and may end up becoming an extension of the Chicago-New Orleans City of New Orleans.
But that hinges upon the federal government making a financial commitment to the service.
Moorman said during the interview that the new Viewliner equipment for eastern long-distance trains that is being built by CAF USA will be finished according to a new production schedule that the company and Amtrak have agreed upon.
Other items of interest include Moorman’s view that something needs to be done about the quality of food service aboard Amtrak trains, and the aging diesel locomotives and passenger cars used by trains outside the Northeast Corridor.
In regards to food service, Moorman said the pressure that has come from Congress in recent years to cut the cost of food service is lessening and what Amtrak needs to do is sell more food.
Another high priority on Moorman’s list is the institution of a training program for on-board employees, including conductors.
But the top priority on Moorman’s list is rebuilding infrastructure in the Northeast Corridor. That includes replacing bridges, tunnels and catenary, as well as building a replacement for New York Penn Station.
The takeaway from the Phillips column: Look for a better on-board experience but with little to no expansion of the existing routes and levels of train frequency.