As people who really love riding trains and who really want Amtrak to be far better than it is—oh, for tomorrow's super fast trains to be here today!—we really wish the railroad would/could get its financial act together. Because losing more than $800 million in ten years on food alone is just absurd.
And it gets worse. The money-losing railroad’s food and beverage service has never once broken even—despite being required to by Congress in 1981. Basically, Amtrak loses about $80 million a year selling food, according to the railroad's own inspector general and the Government Accountability Office. Since 2002, Amtrak’s food service has lost $834 million!
The biggest problem appears to be the food on the railroad's long-distance routes, but cash also gets lost to "poor management, lack of planning and enforcement of its food and beverage contract." It's also estimated that between $4 and $7 million in food is lost annually to theft by Amtrak employees.
"It’s an outrageous cost to taxpayers," John L. Mica, a Florida Republican and chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which held a hearing on the issue yesterday. "There has to be a better way. We can’t keep on paying this subsidy." Seriously though, there must be. And considering the rising costs of gas, getting rid of Amtrak doesn't seem like the right answer.