The Truth Could Set Him Free.
Yes, yes … I know that Amtrak’s new president and CEO has a full plate. But it would be very interesting if Richard Anderson were to begin his tour of duty by confronting and laying to rest an issue that has festered for years and still serves to undermine Amtrak’s credibility with both Congress and the national media.
Every year, industry journalists, Congressional staffers, and transportation specialists working for “think tanks” of various persuasions all devour the various financial reports Amtrak releases and every year all those experts come away shaking their heads. There is, you see, a lot they don’t like and can’t understand when it comes to Amtrak’s accounting system. Among other concerns, there is almost universal suspicion that too much of Amtrak’s red ink is being attributed to the national network.
If that’s true, then one tantalizing speculation is that a fair and accurate analysis could show that the long-distance trains are NOT the financial black hole that has been assumed for years. Of course that would mean that the vaunted Northeast Corridor is a financial loser, and a very big one. (That’s been claimed by more than a few transportation experts for many years.)
And now, admittedly perhaps getting carried away with hypotheticals, what if a fair and accurate audit should tell us that the California Zephyr, Amtrak’s most popular long-distance train, could be a money maker and not a money loser? Could that tempt Union Pacific back into the passenger business on that route? Or is it even remotely possible that a private operator would be able to step in, make a deal with U.P. to operate over their track, and replace Amtrak?
Nah … let’s get real. The obstacles would probably be insurmountable for anyone but Amtrak. But, that said, a lot of people are going to be very interested to see how (or if) Amtrak’s much-maligned accounting system is going change under David Anderson.