Dammit! Amtrak Is At It Again!
OK, I’ve had it. Here I am in Paris and I would much rather be writing about this glorious city, but moments after firing up my laptop to check emails, I come across a press release from Amtrak announcing that there will be no more hot food for sleeping car passengers on the Capitol Limited and the Lake Shore limited.
Instead, those of us riding in and paying top dollar for sleeping car accommodations will be able to order meals being prepared off site somewhere and delivered to our roomettes or bedrooms. What kind of meals, you ask? Here’s what the Amtrak press release says:
Lunch & Dinner: Chilled beef tenderloin, Vegan wrap, Chicken Caesar salad, or Turkey club sandwich.
Breakfast: Assorted breakfast breads with butter, cream cheese and strawberry jam; Greek yogurt and sliced seasonal fresh fruit plate.
Note, please, that apparently nothing will be prepared or even heated on board.
What next? I seems as though there is a new announcement every week describing the latest degradation of the Amtrak experience for sleeping car passengers. It is my hope that enough people and organizations will rear up and object loudly and publicly.
But what’s really needed is a serious, in depth, multi-part exposé by a first rate reporter working for a major publication with unimpeachable credibility. It’s time Amtrak’s questionable accounting methods are challenged and its duplicitous dealings with government and citizen groups are exposed.
In the meantime, I am indeed in Paris, scheduled to leave here tomorrow for the medieval town of Carcassonne. There is, however, an ongoing off-again-on-again strike of the railway workers, so I have no idea how I’m going to get there. I will, in an hour or so, call Railbookers in London and will do whatever they advise.
I’m just back from a long trip, included a segment on the eastbound Capitol. (Timekeeping was pretty good.) Among my table companions, two women of Fort Wayne, riding coach as far as Waterloo, secured an early dinner reservation.
If the full diner comes off, are coach passengers going to have to bring their own grub aboard, or will they still have access to the etiolated cafe service on offer?
I have to assume that coach passengers will be able to purchase meals, but they may not be the same meals that will be sold to passengers in sleepers. We’ll all just have to wait and see.
I guess having a separate lounge for sleeping car passengers from the current lounge will move Amtrak even closer to the airline industry with its first class seating separate from coach seating. No more socializing with my friends in first class in the dining car or the lounge. And…that assumes I even have a train to travel on.
The average long distance customer is on board over three to four meal periods. The last time Amtrak tried a stunt like this (remember Rima Parkhurst?), it immediately drove away passengers who chose not to come back for their next trip. No one at Amtrak remembers or understands this, because they don’t understand or value their own product. Amtrak is determined to destroy the long distance trains, and NARP’s “defense” of them (as spelled out–where else?–in their newest fundraising solicitation) is pathetically unpersuasive.
Though most commentary on the changes to the CL and LSL food service seems to be focused on what will be lost, it’s important to note that both trains will gain a dedicated, staffed sleeper lounge car. In addition, each sleeper passenger will receive a complementary alcoholic beverage, unlimited soft drinks and an amenity kit.
Much as I enjoy the traditional dining car experience, these seem to be appropriate changes given Amtrak’s high labor costs and the dining preferences of most people nowadays. And, if the menus are anything like the Acela first-class offerings, I see no cause for complaint.
Certainly a valid perspective. It could be that, given Mr. Anderson’s recent track record, we are all primed to oppose any new initiative coming from the Amtrak brain trust. Personally, a lounge car for the exclusive use of sleeping car passengers would restore the opportunity to socialize with other travelers in an informal setting. It won’t make up for the loss of the classic dining car, but I would support the idea.
I trust RPA will take this issue with seriousness. I guess as a RPA (NARP) member, I’m all ears to hear what might be effective. Seems to me (since this news will hardly reach most of the public on it’s own), that one possible way is for RPA to arrange distribution of notices to at least staffed train stations on both LSL and CL routes by members. Actually this will affect a lot more LSL stations because in NY State just about every station stop is staffed! Also one thing that might be helpful is to know just whom correspondence may be sent within Amtrak. Beyond this I’m guessing that Senators/Representatives of the affected states need to be addressed? These moves are becoming insanity and their timing all seems to lead to Mr. Richard Anderson, who evidently wants to
make Amtrak a ground airline. I really do wish that RPA would find out just what is going on, and what on earth his intentions are. Like you Jim, it really seems to me that pressure needs to be brought to bear upon this man. We dislike the message but your notification of the truth and alertess in doing so is certainly appreciated.
Thanks, Bill. As you can imagine, the RPA board will be meeting to discuss and act upon a proposed response being developed by our staff in DC. What really rankles is the timing of the Amtrak announcement: two days after we were all up on The Hill meeting with members of Congress and one day after we all adjourned. I’m no longer a member of the RPA board (as of this past Wednesday), but am in touch and will report here what I can when I can.
Nuts! I’m riding the Lake Shore this summer. I’m only on board for one meal, but breakfast was always my favorite. I’ll be riding with two couples and this will be their first time in the sleepers. One of my selling points to them was that meals were included. This is ridiculous.
Let me know how your friends react to the new system and to the whole experience. This being their first time, their reaction will be interesting.