Train travel isn't cheap, but according to Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, it's also a government-funded boondoggle. Coburn's annual Wastebook 2013 revealed yet another waste of your tax dollars. Read on. With Amtrak planning even more services in future (see video), can taxpayers really afford more waste?
It looks like Amtrak has been railroading the American people.
According to Amtrak’s inspector general, the publicly funded passenger rail service chalked up $72 million in food-service losses alone in FY 2012. As bad as that number may seem, it’s an improvement from previous years’ losses from food service: in 2006, the railroad lost $105.2 million from its dining operations.
Almost all of the losses stemmed from providing meals on long-distance trains. While some shorter rail routes in the heavily trafficked Northeast Corridor actually netted Amtrak a tiny bit of money in the form of food service revenue, 99 percent of its $72 million losses in the food service area occurred on long-distance passenger routes.
After examining the cuisine served on these long-distance routes, it becomes clear why the company is hemorrhaging cash. On Amtrak’s Auto Train, which runs from Virginia to Florida, passengers are offered complimentary wine and cheese. The Auto Train is not unique: three other long-distance routes provide free wine and champagne to sleeper-car passengers, which all together cost Amtrak $428,000 in 2012.
After complimentary cocktails, passengers on long distance routes can find the following dishes awaiting them in the dining car. On the 43-hour Chicago-Los Angeles Southwest Chief, travelers can enjoy a $23.25 Mahi-Mahi dinner accompanied by a vegetable medley and three-grain rice pilaf.
Aren’t things are getting better if the food service losses dropped from $105.2 million in 2006 to $72 million in 2012?
No. Apparently, Amtrak has not just been cooking up expensive meals. It has also been cooking the books.
It turns out Amtrak’s boost in food and beverage finances are the result of transferring revenue from ticket sales into food service accounts.
According to House Oversight and Government Reform Committee member John Mica, without accounting gimmicks taken into account, Amtrak’s food service losses “now approach $1 billion.”
Amtrak’s food services losses have cost taxpayers nearly $1 billion. When will it end?