Private-car groups respond to Amtrak plans on charters, excursions

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Three Amtrak GE P42DCs lead the American Association of Private Railroad Car Owners' Chattanooga Limited convention train across the James River near Lynchburg, Va., in September 2012. AAPRCO's annual convention and mid-year specials are at risk with Amtrak's new policy.
Chase Gunnoe

WASHINGTON — The two organizations representing the private-car industry say they’re doing their part to communicate with Amtrak the importance of their industry.

A Wednesday afternoon memo from the American Association of Private Railroad Car Owners urged its members contact lawmakers and opinion leaders about the significance of private cars, just hours after Amtrak announced it would do away with special trains and charter moves.

“Amtrak's stated rationale for these changes is that private varnish has the potential to worsen on-time performance, which is a major concern of President and CEO Richard Anderson,” AAPRCO President Robert Donnelley wrote in the memo, adding that the association’s annual convention and mid-year special trains are at risk.

Donnelley said the private varnish business adds approximately $10 million in gross revenues to Amtrak, despite a recent Wall Street Journal article citing only a $4 million impact. Amtrak generates revenues from private cars by charging operators to haul the cars either behind regularly scheduled trains or on their own special moves.

The memo also stated the association is “working to get the most accurate information about the full extent of Amtrak’s policy, which may not yet be firmly in place, and to mount the strongest possible effort to push back against it.”

Donnelley urged members to educate elected officials on the importance of private varnish and the number of jobs associated with the industry. The memo talked about the effect to employment at shops and other vendor facilities that provide support to private cars.

Similarly, the Railroad Passenger Car Alliance is working towards a solution and hopes to communicate its concerns to Amtrak on behalf of the industry.

“The policy as officially released on March 28, 2018, will have drastic effects on many private car owners, excursion operators, private companies, and tourism in many communities that utilize Amtrak’s service,” RPCA President W. Roger Fuehring tells Trains News Wire.

“As we move forward, we hope to have an open dialogue with Amtrak in regards to discussing this policy. We look forward to returning not only the revenue stream to Amtrak that we produce with our clientele, but the goodwill that we generate on behalf of Amtrak with every trip,” he adds.

The groups are responding to a Wednesday memo to Amtrak employees from Anderson, the former airline executive who became Amtrak CEO in January. It stated the passenger railroad would cease to operate special trains and charter moves in a concentrated effort to improve on-time performance.

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