Amtrak Revenue, Ridership Rose in FY2019

Amtrak said that it posted a record “best operating performance” in fiscal year 2019 by handling 32.5 million passengers and earning $3.3 billion in operating revenue.

The fiscal year, which ended on Sept. 30, saw the carrier set ridership, revenue and financial performance records, Amtrak said in a news release.

The news release said Amtrak is on track to break even financially in FY2020.

On a year-over-year basis, ridership increased by 800,000; operating revenue rose 3.6 percent to $3.3 billion; operating earnings improved by $140.9 million, or 82.6 percent, for a loss of $29.8 million; and capital investment climbed 9.4 percent to $1.6 billion.

By comparison, Amtrak posted an operating loss of $170.6 million in FY2018.

Ridership of long-distance trains increased less than 1 percent. Most of the growth in ridership came in the Northeast Corridor and state-supported corridor services.

Amtrak said Acela ridership was up 4.3 percent, Northeast Regional was up 2.9 percent and state-supported services were up 2.4 percent.

Amtrak said it is the first major U.S.-based railroad to implement a safety management system, which led to a 26 percent reduction in passenger incidents, 72 percent fewer serious employee injuries, a 10 percent reduction in Federal Railroad Administration reportable injuries and a 3 percent reduction in trespasser and grade crossing incidents.

In its annual report, Amtrak said it completed installation of positive train control on nearly all trackage that it owns.

The exception is about a mile of restricted speed track in the Chicago Terminal.

During FY2019, Amtrak spent $1.6 billion on capital expenses, which was 9.4 percent higher than the previous year. Highlights of this included:

  • A $437 million program to refurbish the interiors of cars assigned to Acela Northeast Corridor service ($4 million) and Amfleet II cars for coach class along the East Coast.
  • Northeast Corridor state-of-good-repair programs of $713 million for repair or replacement of 24,080 feet of catenary, 79,985 concrete ties and 1,784 bridge ties, and 283 miles of high-speed surfacing.
  • An $850 million contract awarded to Siemens for 75 new Charger diesel locomotives to be assigned to national network trains.
  • A request for proposals for a new fleet of single-level passenger rail cars to replace Amfleet I cars, the oldest in the fleet.
  • Station improvements of $143 million station improvement program including installation of a digital train announcement board at Philadelphia 30th Street Station; enhanced Metropolitan Lounges in Washington Union Station, Boston South Station, 30th Street Station and the Great Hall at Chicago Union Station; commercial close for $90 million of improvements at Baltimore Penn Station; and renewed service at Springfield (Massachusetts) Union Station, which included new passenger amenities.
  • Other capital investments were $78 million for ADA-related design and construction improvement projects at more than 40 locations nationwide, and $110 million in technology, including an updated customer mobile app. Amtrak also began development of an “omnichannel strategy to enable customers to easily complete purchases, access information and engage in transactions across multiple channels.”

Amtrak said nearly 90 percent of its passengers who responded to a survey “expressed overall satisfaction with their experience.”

This included improvements in customer satisfaction scores for clean train interiors, restroom cleanliness and information about delays. Acela and Northeast Regional customers noticed improvements and were increasingly likely to recommend Amtrak to family, friends, and colleagues.”

Amtrak did not specify if the customer satisfaction survey was conducted for services outside the Northeast Corridor.

Amtrak said its on-time terminal departure performance was 93 percent across the system departing on time with the best performance turned in on the Northeast Corridor where trains departed on time from Washington Union Station more than 97 percent of the time.

Amtrak did not report on-time arrival figures per train or route.

FY2019 was the first full year in which all congressionally-mandated state and commuter partner cost-sharing agreements (under PRIIA) have been in effect.

Amtrak also said it received a credit upgrade to ‘A’ from S&P and an affirmation of an ‘A1’ credit rating by Moody’s, “reflecting significantly reduced operating losses and a stronger balance sheet, with no net debt.”

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