Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak’s Auto Train’

Amtrak Flexible Dining Menus Expand

January 22, 2022

In passenger train advocacy circles French toast has come to symbolize what is right and wrong about dining aboard Amtrak.

When it is available on the breakfast menu passenger train advocates tend to be pleased. When it is not, they are upset.

Over the years French toast has come and gone from Amtrak dining car menus.

It made a comeback in traditional dining cars on western long-distance trains last summer and is now available on the menu of eastern long distance trains, too.

It was one of a number of additions that Amtrak quietly made to its flexible dining menu last year that increased the number of hot offerings for all meals.

But not all French toast is the same. Just read the menu descriptions for it on the traditional and flexible dining menus.

That offered in traditional dining cars is described as thick-cut Texas toast with whipped cream and seasonal berries. On flexible dining menus it is merely described as thick-cut Texas toast served with Applewood smoked bacon.

What the menus don’t say is that in traditional dining cars the French toast is created on board by a chef. In flexible dining cars all food is created off the train by a catering company and heated onboard.

Some passenger train advocates are still angry about Amtrak’s downgrading of dining service aboard eastern long distance trains starting in June 2018.

It was widely viewed as a cost-cutting move and resulted in fewer choices for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Further ruffling the feathers of passenger train advocates has been the limiting of dining car service to sleeping car passengers on all trains. Coach passengers were left to buy whatever is available in the café car.

Be that as it may, the current flexible dining offerings are more expansive than they were when the service began in 2018.

In its early days, breakfast under the flexible dining concept was limited to one hot offering – a breakfast sandwich – and such things as snack bars and yogurt.

Aside from French toast, the flexible dining menu now includes two more hot breakfast offering.

The continental breakfast comes with a breakfast sandwich, blueberry muffin, Greek yogurt, and assorted cold cereals and oatmeal.

A three egg omelet comes with Swiss, cheddar and mozzarella cheeses and is accompanied by breakfast potatoes and chicken sausage.

What hasn’t changed is the lunch and dinner offerings are the same. You get a complimentary alcoholic beverage at dinner.

The current offerings include braised beef short ribs served with a Cabernet reduction
sauce, baby green beans, Parisienne carrots and chive mashed potatoes; vegen enchiladas with black beans, corn and cheese wrapped in corn tortillas with an ancho chili sauce and yellow rice; chicken ala rosa with fettuccine, broccoli, sundried cherry tomatoes, and Pecorino Romano cheese in a tomato vodka cream sauce; sesame glazed salmon with stir-fried vegetables and jasmine rice; and penne pasta with tomato sauce, meatballs, and Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses.

The menu posted at Amtrak’s website does not list dessert items, but carries the notation “ask your server about our seasonal dessert selection.”

Flexible dining service is provided on the Capitol Limited, Cardinal, City of New Orleans, Crescent, Lake Shore Limited, Silver Star, Silver Meteor and Texas Eagle.

Amtrak gave it the “flexible” moniker because there are no set seating times and meals can be served in your sleeping car room upon request.

Meal hours are 6:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. for breakfast, 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. for lunch, and 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. for dinner.

Amtrak officials have talked about upgrading dining service on eastern long-distance trains, but have not provided any specific details or a time frame for when that might happen.

Likewise they have spoken about making dining car meals, whether traditional or flexible, available for purchase by coach passengers but have not said when that might occur.

Nor have they said what form it would take. Prior to the launch of flexible dining coach passengers had the ability to be served in full-service dining cars.

It may be that once dining car meals are made available to coach passengers it might be on a “to go” basis rather than with sit down table service.

The infrastructure bill approved by Congress last year directed Amtrak to establish a food and beverage service task force, but that has yet to get underway and it remains to be seen what recommendations will be made and how or even if they will be implemented.

For now, the only traditional dining involving meals prepared fresh aboard the train is limited to the Auto Train, Empire Builder, California Zephyr, Southwest Chief, Sunset Limited and Coast Starlight.

The current Auto Train menu differs slightly from those on the other trains with full-service dining cars.  

On the Auto Train all entrées include a small salad and dinner roll rather than an appetizer as is the case with western train dining cars.

The current entrees include an 8-ounce flat iron steak with a Cabernet reduction sauce served with baby green beans, Parisian carrots and a choice of mashed potatoes or a baked potato; pan-roasted chicken breast with wild mushroom risotto, English peas, fava beans, and Parisian carrots, all smothered in a morel mushroom sauce; grilled Atlantic salmon served with ancient grains, baby green beans and Parisian carrots in a miso soy beurre blanc sauce; tortellini with pesto cream and grape tomatoes, and English peas topped with shaved Parmesan cheese.

Entrees for children include an all-beef hot dog served with kettle chips, or macaroni and cheese served with baby green beans and Parisian carrots.

Desserts include flourless Chocolate Torte, cheesecake, carrot cake, vanillia ice cream, and sugar-free Jell-O.

The Auto-Train does not offer a full breakfast. Instead, sleeping car passengers receive a continental breakfast.

The current traditional dining car breakfast menu used on western long-distance trains includes a continental breakfast of seasonal mixed berries, croissant, Greek yogurt, assorted cereals, and a choice of oatmeal or grits; French toast; three egg omelet with choice of cheddar, Swiss cheese, tomatoes, red and green peppers and onions, all served with roasted breakfast potatoes and a croissant; and scrambled eggs.

The latter comes with the same options as the omelet along with roasted breakfast potatoes and a croissant.

Diners can add to their meal bacon, pork sausage links or chicken sausage links.

At lunch the entrees include a Caesar salad with romaine lettuce, grape tomatoes, and shaved parmesan cheese with the option to add a roasted chicken breast; grilled cheese sandwich with roasted turkey, bacon, provolone and cheddar cheeses on hickory-smoked onion bread; an Angus beef burger with cheddar or Swiss cheese, lettuce, and tomato, on a brioche roll; and vegan chilli served in a baked potato or in a bowl with a choice of toppings of cheddar cheese, bacon,
sour cream, and scallions.

The sandwiches come with a side of Terra chips and coleslaw.

Dinner entrees come with an appetizer and one complimentary alcoholic beverage. As is the case with flexible dining, soft drinks are complimentary throughout the trip.

The appetizers include a lobster crab cake, green chile cheese tamale, or a mixed greens salad with baby brie.

Dinner entrees and desserts are the same as those offered on the Auto Train. The traditional dining cars also make available at dinner offerings from the lunch menu.

The children’s menu includes grilled cheese (American and Swiss) with kettle chips; roasted chicken breast with green beans, carrot balls and cheesy polenta; white cheddar mac and cheese with green beans and carrots; and a all beef hot dog served with kettle chips.

Amtrak to Cut Long Distance Service on Oct. 1

June 16, 2020

Amtrak told its employees on Monday that all long-distance trains except for the Auto Train will operate on less than daily schedules starting Oct. 1.

The carrier also said that service in the Northeast Corridor and state-funded corridor services will continue to operate at greatly reduced levels through during fiscal year 2021, which begins Oct. 1.

The message indicated that Amtrak will watch unspecified performance metrics with the idea of restoring daily service as demand warrants, possibly by summer 2021.

Amtrak has not released details of the service cuts including what days that trains would operate. Nor has it released information on the service metrics that it will be monitoring.

For example, it is unclear if the Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited will be scheduled to operate on the same days or different days between Chicago and Cleveland.

The memo to employees was written by Roger Harris, Amtrak’s executive vice president, chief marketing and revenue service officer.

Harris said the Silver Meteor is expected to operate four days a week between New York and Miami while the Silver Star would run tri-weekly.

The memo indicated those trains would be scheduled so that their common stations would receive daily service.

The Meteor appears to be the only long-distance train being eyed for quad-weekly service. All other long-distance trains will operate tri-weekly.

However, operations of two trains that already operate tri-weekly, the Chicago-New York Cardinal and the New Orleans-Los Angeles Sunset Limited, will be unchanged.

Amtrak has apparently dropped an idea floated by President William Flynn in a late May a letter to Congress of combining the Palmetto (New York-Savannah, Georgia), Silver Meteor and Silver Star.

The Auto Train, which operates between Lorton, Virginia, and Sanford, Florida, will continue to operate daily.

The Harris memo said the service reductions are being made in an effort to save $150 million  during a time of expected low ridership due to the COVID-19 pandemic and an economic recession that has depressed travel demand.

Harris also argued that Amtrak’s operating loss has been more than $500 million on long-distance services.

Those losses, though, are under Amtrak’s fully allocated costs accounting method whose accuracy has been criticized by rail passenger supporters.

When pressed for details about the service reduction plans, Amtrak spokeswoman Christina Leeds said in a prepared statement that the carrier is still in the planning stages and can’t answer most questions yet about what service will look like starting Oct. 1.

Her statement said Amtrak expects during the next fiscal year to operate 32 percent fewer frequencies on the Northeast Corridor and 24 percent fewer state-supported services.

The service cuts were blasted by Rail Passengers Association President Jim Mathews. “Chopping back to triweekly will mute any demand signal before it gets to management,” he said in a statement. “The long-distance services remain essential to the hundreds of small communities across the United States with fewer options than Philadelphia or Boston or New York.”

Mathews said Amtrak’s two worst-performing trains are the Cardinal and Sunset Limited, which operate tri-weekly, and predicted Amtrak’s plans to operate less than daily service on long distance routes will result in a dramatic decline in ridership.

“Moreover, Amtrak may be setting itself up for failure by losing operating slots on host railroads, losing employees it will need to restore service, and possibly losing the rolling stock as well,” he said.

Ross Capon, who headed the then-named National Association of Railroad Passengers recalled that Amtrak went through a similar phase in 1995 during another era of budget austerity.

“Experience from the 1990s shows that Amtrak’s plan to run the entire long-distance network less than daily will not achieve promised savings,” Capon told Trains magazine. “It also will inhibit the return of ridership Amtrak says is prerequisite for service restoration.

Capon called on Congress to grant Amtrak the additional $1.4 billion it is seeking on top of its regular appropriation for FY2021 with the proviso that long-distance trains now operating daily continue to do so.

Amtrak has reported that although ridership and revenue remain down due to the pandemic and recession, long-distance ticket revenues rose 71 percent from $6.8 million to $11.6 million, between April and May.

In the Northeast Corridor, revenue rose about 60 percent from $1.5 million to $2.4 million, and state supported trains generated less than a 50 percent increase, from $2.3 million in April to $3.5 million in May.

The Harris memo to employees opened with a statement that Amtrak remains committed to operating a national network but “we need to be smart about how we deliver our service in this market environment.”

Harris said Congress is unlikely to support Amtrak indefinitely if it continues to operate mostly empty trains.

“We need to demonstrate that we are using our resources efficiently and responsibly,” he wrote.

The memo stated Amtrak ridership is down as much as 95 percent on a year-over-year basis.

Although it continues to rise, “it is going to take a long time to return to normal.”

Harris said the demand for long distance service is down by 70 percent and Amtrak expects systemwide ridership in FY2021to be 50 percent of what it was in 2019.

As did Flynn in his May letter to Congress, Harris said Amtrak said the potential for a second wave of COVID-19 in the fall could further reduce ridership.

Checking Out Amtrak’s Florida Trains

May 14, 2020

Last weekend I spent time in Folkston, Georgia, where I was able to witness Amtrak’s Florida trains up close.

Due to CSX track work in North Carolina, the Silver Star is now operating Thursday through Sunday and the Silver Meteor runs Sunday through Thursday.

The idea is just one train operates each day although there is some overlap on some days.

For instance the Star runs northbound on Thursday but not southbound while the Meteor runs in both directions. This schedule is temporary and will last through June 2.

Train consists are smaller with the Star running with typically five cars although I did see a four-car train. The Meteor is typically six to seven cars.

The Auto Train still runs daily but with a much shorter consist. I didn’t get many pictures of the Silver Star because it comes through at night northbound or early in the morning southbound.

The photograph above shows the northbound Silver Meteor at Folkston.

The top photograph below shows the southbound Meteor at Folkston while the photo below that shows the northbound Meteor at Hardeeville, South Carolina, running with three P42DC locomotives and six cars.

Interestingly, all Amtrak trains that I saw had at least two engines even the four-car train.

In the next two images, the northbound Auto Train is at Folkston while the last image shows the southbound Silver Star at Folkston.

Article and Photographs by Todd Dillon

Amtrak Eastern Long-Distance Trains to Get ‘Contemporary Dining’ Service Effective Oct. 1

August 12, 2019

An internal Amtrak memo that was posted on Train Orders.com had confirmed that all eastern long-distance trains except the Silver Star will adopt the “contemporary dining” model effective Oct. 1.

Full-service dining will be removed from the New York-New Orleans Crescent and New York-Miami Silver Meteor.

The Silver Star is an exception because it does not provide meal service to sleeping car passengers as part of their fare.

The Chicago-New York Cardinal will gain a Viewliner dining car that will serve as a sleeper class lounge car in the same manner as is done on the Chicago-New York Lake Shore Limited.

Although the Cardinal has not had meals prepared on board for several years, it did have a more expansive menu than the Lake Shore or Capitol Limited had after both switched to the contemporary dining model last year.

The net effect of the changes is to standardize food and beverage service on eastern long distance trains while reducing the number of on-board employees assigned to the Crescent and Silver Meteor.

The Cardinal and the Chicago-New Orleans City of New Orleans will not have a net loss of on-board jobs, but two of the positions will be reclassified as lead service attendants.

The Crescent will see a reduction of 16 positions while the Silver Meteor will lose 14 positions.

The Amtrak memo said onboard meal preparation will be replaced by a small variety of ready to serve meals that will be included in the sleeper class fare and delivered to the train just prior to origination.

All eastern long-distance trains will have two food service cars, one of which is reserved for the exclusive use of sleeper class passengers. The other is a café car open to all passengers.

Sleeping car attendants will, upon request, continue to deliver meals to passengers in their rooms.

Amtrak also plans to continue the practice of the sleeping car attendant asking passengers shortly after boarding their preferred dining times and giving reservations in 15-minute increments.

The lunch and dinner offerings on all trains will include Asian noodle bowl, red wine braised beef, chicken fettuccini with broccoli, and Creole shrimp and andouille. Dessert is available upon request.

Breakfast is described as a deluxe continental breakfast that includes muffins, yogurt, fresh fruit, hard boiled eggs, cereal, oatmeal and breakfast sandwich.

Sleeper class passengers and business class passengers will each receive one complimentary alcoholic beverage and unlimited soft drinks.

Business class, which is available only on the Cardinal, does not include meals.

The consist of the Cardinal will be one Viewliner baggage car, three Amfleet II coaches, one Viewliner sleeper , one Viewliner sleeper-lounge,  and an Amfleet I café-lounge with 18 business class seats, Amfleet café module and 24 booth seats.

The A end of the café car pointed toward the coaches to reduce foot traffic through the business class section.

The Cardinal onboard crew will continue to be based in New York.

The City of New Orleans will have consist of Superliner equipment, including  two coaches, a baggage-coach, a Cross Country Café that will serve as the sleeper class lounge, a Sightseer lounge that will serve as the café car for the entire train and a transition sleeper.

The Crescent and Silver Meteor will have similar consists of three Amfleet II coaches, one Amfleet diner lite car that will serve as the café car, a Viewliner dining car that will serve as the sleeper class lounge and a Viewliner baggage car. The Crescent will have two sleeping cars while the Silver Meteor will have three.

The assignments mean that Amtrak will have in revenue service at any given time 13 Viewliner dining cars of the 25 that is owns.

The memo also detailed the plans for changes in Auto Train food and beverage service in January 2020.

Complimentary breakfast and dinner for coach passengers will be eliminated in favor of an expanded café car menu sold through a Cross Country Café.

The Amtrak memo said the café car will provide “a festive environment during the trip,” although it is not clear what this is supposed to mean.

Food trucks will be selling meals at the stations in Lorton, Virginia, and Sanford, Florida.

Effective Oct. 1, one coach will be replaced by a sleeping car with additional sleeping cars being assigned during peak travel periods.

Food service for sleeper class will be provided by seasonal menus with variety of entrée selections for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

There will be a selection of cocktails, beer and wine to go with coffee and soft drinks. Amtrak said that a wine service is also being introduced for sleeper class passengers aboard the Auto Train.

The changes in onboard service aboard the Auto Train will result in 25 onboard service positions being eliminated.

Planned Auto Train Dining Service Changes May be Predictor of the Future of Amtrak’s Long-Distance Trains

July 22, 2019

The recent announcement by Amtrak of changes to on-board service aboard the Auto Train might be a blueprint for the “experiential” long-distance service that Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson has alluded to in public comments.

However, the upgrades that the carrier is making for sleeping car passengers on the Auto Train stand somewhat in stark contrast with what is happening with onboard service on other eastern long-distance trains.

In a news release, Amtrak said that starting in January Auto Train sleeping car passengers will receive complimentary wine with dinner as well as better linens and towels.

The release spoke of new dinner and breakfast menus, but it is not clear if that will involve food freshly prepared onboard or prepared off the train by a catering company.

The Auto Train announcement came about the same time that news broke that Amtrak plans to extend its “contemporary dining” program to its other eastern long-distance trains.

That program began aboard the Lake Shore Limited and Capitol Limited in June 2018 and involves serving sleeping car passengers box meals in their rooms or in the dining car.

When “contemporary dining” began, Amtrak sought to sell it as an improvement in the sense that passengers received a complimentary alcoholic beverage with their meals, would be able to eat when they wanted, and would have exclusive use of the dining car throughout their trip.

Initially, all of the sleeper class food aboard the Capitol and Lake Shore was served cold, but after a couple months one hot offering was added at dinner and breakfast.

The Auto Train announcement also referenced expanding sleeping car capacity during peak travel periods, but no such move was made for the Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited.

Nor did Amtrak upgrade the linens and towels available for use by sleeping car passengers on those trains. Aside: those improved linens and towels may not be all that much. Amtrak is not about to become a high-end hotel.

Coach passengers aboard the Auto Train will be losing their complimentary dinner. Instead, Amtrak said it will expand the café car menu of meals, snacks and beverages. It also said it will have food truck vendors at the stations in Lorton, Virginia, and Sanford, Florida, that coach passengers can patronize.

That sounds like a 21st century version of the 19th century practice of passenger trains making meal stops at designated points.

Auto train coach passengers will receive a complimentary continental breakfast. That is more than coach passengers get on any other long-distance train.

Commenting on the Auto Train changes, the Rail Passengers Association noted that these changes are in line with the desire of Amtrak management to more clearly delineate travel classes. It also might be a scheme to delineate types of trains.

The Auto Train is unique among long-distance trains in not having intermediate stations. The clientele of the Auto Train is different in many ways from that of other long-distance trains and the more well-heeled among them might be the target audience Amtrak is seeking with the experiential trains.

I’ve long thought that Anderson might have in mind duplicating the Rocky Mountaineer or even VIA Rail Canada’s Canadian, both of which attract a lot of affluent tour group travelers with disposable income to spend on experiences.

The Washington-Florida travel market has long been a strong one and is the only Amtrak long-distance market to have double daily service between endpoints even if those trains take different routes within North Carolina and South Carolina.

The implementation of “contemporary dining” on the Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited last year also represented a delineation between sleeper class and coach class in the sense that the latter are now limited to café car fare or bringing their own food with them aboard the train. But no food trucks.

In an analysis posted on its website last week, the RPA said Amtrak has hinted that the contemporary dining to be imposed on the Crescent and Silver Meteor, the only remaining eastern long-distance trains with full-service dining cars, will be different from that now available on the Capitol and Lake Shore. But RPA said it is not clear how or why it will be different.

“Meanwhile, problems with availability, choice and dietary restrictions have soured the perceptions of many repeat riders,” RPA wrote.

The rail passenger advocacy group acknowledged that Amtrak is trying to balance modern tastes and sensibilities within a long-distance ridership audience that includes large percentages of patrons who do not share those tastes and sensibilities.

RPA pointed out that one of its members wrote to say about “contemporary dining,” that “The food honestly is both better, tastier and more in line with how I eat when I am dieting like now and how my kids eat. Plus I like the dedicated lounge space in between meals.”

The latter comment reflects a facet of train travel that doesn’t get much attention.

If you are going to shell out the big bucks Amtrak demands for sleeper class, you want more than your own room and bed at night.

Amtrak argues that its surveys have found many passengers want less heavy meals and want to be able to eat when they choose rather that during fixed mealtimes.

Many passengers also don’t care for the community seating that has long been associated with eating in a railroad dining car. These passengers would rather not dine in the company of strangers.

Of course, RPA said, some passengers have found the food of “contemporary dining” to be terrible and even those who like the food have been put off by how it is presented.

That probably is an allusion to it coming in cardboard boxes and plastic containers, something that is being done because it is less costly and easier to manage.

In its analysis, the RPA said there are too few choices available with current “contemporary dining” fare, particularly with hot meal options.

“Members also tell us that kosher options are a problem, as are options for those with food allergies or sensitivities like gluten intolerance,” RPA wrote, “We’ve also heard from many of our members about entrees running out very early in the dining service.”

At the time that “contemporary dining” was launched, Amtrak said it would eventually allow coach passengers to purchase the meals made available to sleeper class passengers, but thus far that has not occurred.

Amtrak has said it is seeking to satisfy a Congressional mandate to cut its food and beverage deficit so the changes being made to the Auto Train and other eastern long-distance trains are being imposed with that in mind.

That means reducing the number of onboard employees involved in food and beverage service as well as trying to cut the cost of food and beverage acquisition.

The food trucks for coach passengers concept fits well into this framework because it shifts the risk onto an entrepreneur who probably is paying Amtrak a fee for the privilege of selling food trackside.

I wonder, by the way, what will happen when Amtrak begins getting complaints about food odors lingering in the air long after the food has been consumed.

Much of how Amtrak is framing these changes is akin to Michael Jackson’s fabled moonwalk in which he moves backwards while giving the illusion of moving forward.

Many railfans dislike “contemporary dining” but they are not necessarily representative of those who buy sleeper class tickets.

The sleeping customers are not necessarily looking for gourmet dining on wheels or trying to recreate the experience of traveling on the Broadway Limited, Super Chief, Twentieth Century Limited or the Capitol Limited during their heyday before Amtrak came along.

They want a good meal and friendly service that makes them feel that the hefty accommodation charge they paid was worth it.

Serving sleeper class passengers a complimentary alcoholic beverage and giving them exclusive use of a dining car turned lounge is fine, but can be negated by offering meals that too much resemble a school field trip box lunch.

RPA is correct in saying presentation is a problem here, but to get restaurant style presentation is labor intensive and reducing labor costs is one of Amtrak’s objectives.

Whatever shortcomings that “contemporary dining” may have, it could be worse.

Amtrak could borrow Southern Pacific’s playbook of providing food and beverage service from vending machines. Maybe it’s just a matter of time.

More Amtrak Full Service Dining Expected to End

July 17, 2019

Amtrak is expected to end full-service dining on all eastern long-distance trains the Rail Passengers Association reported last week.

That means sleeping car passengers traveling on the New York-Miami Silver Meteor and New York-New Orleans Crescent will be served the same fare that sleeping car passengers receive on the Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited.

In early 2020, Amtrak will also end the practice of providing complimentary dinners to coach passengers aboard the Auto Train between Virginia and Florida.

Instead, coach passengers will be given the option of buying café car fare onboard or purchasing meals from food trucks at terminals in Lorton, Virginia, and Sanford, Florida.

An Amtrak news release said all Auto Train passengers will receive a continental breakfast before their arrival.

Sleeping car passengers will continue to be served in their own dining car with “a new menu and the addition of complementary wine to the dinner service,” the news release said.

A spokesperson told Trains magazine that menus for Auto Train sleeping car passengers are still being worked out.

The Amtrak news release said other enhancements will be made to the Auto Train’s sleeping cars including “upgraded towels and bed linens and other pleasantries in each room.”

Amtrak also said it will expand sleeping-car accommodation availability to meet demand.

It is not clear how the food service changes will affect sleeping car passengers on the Chicago-New York Cardinal.

That train has not had meals prepared on board for several years, but offers a much more expansive menu for sleeping car passengers than is available on the Lake Shore Limited or Capitol Limited.

Those meals are prepared off the train and heated onboard.

Since June 2018 sleeping car passengers aboard the Lake Shore and Capitol have received box meals with just one selection being served hot.

One complimentary alcoholic beverage is also provided per passenger per meal.

The meals are served in dedicated cars open only to sleeping car passengers. Passengers also have the option of having the meal delivered to their room.

The range of food items available, though, is limited.

RPA said the changes to food service on eastern trains other than the Auto Train will become effective on Oct. 1, the first day of the 2020 federal budget year. The Auto Train changes take effect on Jan. 15.

Food service provided on western long-distance trains will not be affected by the changes.

The New York-Miami Silver Star has not provided meals to sleeping car passengers since July 1, 2015.

Auto Train coach passengers would no longer have separate dining and lounge/cafe cars and given that Amtrak prohibits passengers from consuming in dining and café cars any food brought board the train that means anything purchased from a food truck will need to be consumed at the passenger’s coach seat.

In its news release, Amtrak said Auto Train coach passengers would be able to buy food and beverages from a cross country café car.

The coming changes drew criticism from RPA President Jim Mathews.

“The problem isn’t the food itself, it’s the way the whole experience is handled,” he said on RPA’s website. “We understand the need to make lighter fare available to match the tastes of many modern travelers. But as it’s currently executed on the Capitol and the Lake Shore, too often food items run short, there aren’t enough hot options, and the presentation is perfunctory and off-putting.”

RPA said that the food service changes are part of a strategy to “improve the financials on these routes.”