Amtrak Squanders Its Good Will.
Amtrak’s decision early in 2018 to drastically limit the number of privately-owned rail cars that can use Amtrak facilities and locomotives set off howls of protests.
Clearly, any of the so-called private varnish railroad cars should have to meet minimum standards to be sure that they’re safe and compatible with Amtrak equipment. But Amtrak’s new requirements were so rigid that the Collis P. Huntington Railroad Historical Society was preparing to cancel its annual excursion trains. Thousands of people had already purchased tickets to travel for a few hours in private rail cars through the New River Gorge while viewing West Virginia’s splendid Fall colors. As in past years, proceeds would be used to promote badly-needed tourism to the area.
Amtrak finally relented, allowing the excursion trains to operate, but they surprised the committee with a whopping increase of $120,000 to their fee. Since the new restrictions had come after thousands of tickets had already been sold, the civic leaders dug down into their potential profits and came up with the additional money.
It’s as though Amtrak president Richard Anderson has formed a special working committee to recommend actions Amtrak can take that will anger as many people as possible and generate a maximum amount of anti-Amtrak news coverage.
By now, it’s clear that Mr. Anderson’s cost-cutting initiatives are costing the railroad good will among the general public, which will eventually affect ridership. It’s also clear that there has been a loss of good will among key politicians—in this case, West Virginia’s newly re-elected senator, Joe Manchin, which will eventually affect funding.
The real question, of course, is whether or not Anderson has managed to hold on to the good will of Amtrak’s board of directors. Best guess: he’s lost that, too, and will be gone by the end of June . . . at which time, we shall bid him a fond al-o-o-o-ha!