“Contemporary Dining”—Amtrak’s Scam.

To the profound distress of seasoned rail passengers, Amtrak’s “Contemporary Dining” service is now in effect on all overnight trains operating east of the Mississippi River. I have not yet had an opportunity to personally experience this . . . uh . . . this experience, but Andrew Selden has, and he was not pleased.

Andy is an attorney and is also an authority on passenger trains and their operation. He is president of the United Rail Passengers Alliance.

OK, so what did Andy think of Amtrak’s new “Contemporary Dining” approach? Not  much. 

Less than  two weeks ago, Andy rode the Lake Shore Limited overnight from Springfield, Massachusetts, to Chicago and came away with several very clear impressions:

1. How this new food delivery system should work may be very clear in the mind of an Amtrak vice president, but passengers are confused: What’s for dinner? How do I order? When is it going to be ready? Where do I sit? There’s a lot of distraction for Amtrak employees trying to make it work.

2. Amtrak leadership has often expressed the belief that an important new class of traveler, the millennials, will convert to Amtrak. And because they are not social creatures, millennials will prefer to dine on their “contemporary” meals back in their accommodations. One member of the Amtrak crew told Andy Selden that was nonsense. “Millennials don’t ride in the sleeping cars.” he said.

3. Every member of the Amtrak crew agreed that very few sleeping car passengers ask that their meals be brought to their rooms. The reason? Minimal place to dispose of the uneaten food and the trash.

The salad, in a 3-inch dish, was the best part of this meal.

4. And what about the food itself? Andy described it as “Awful, plain and simple. . . . as if one bought a low-end frozen TV dinner and microwaved it too long.”

But to my mind, this is the key sentence in Andy’s thoughtful analysIs:

“Absolutely nothing about the meals or the service scheme . . .  was First Class.”  

And so Amtrak decides to cheapen the one aspect of long-distance train travel universally enjoyed by its best customers—the people who are already paying top dollar to travel in sleeping cars.

Sorry, there’s a problem. To reach Andy Selden’s most recent column in the January 4th edition of Railway Age, copy and paste this link: https://www.railwayage.com/passenger/intercity/garbage-served-garbage-generated/