- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 14, 2013

The inspector general of Amtrak, a publicly funded railroad serving more than 500 destinations in 46 states, revealed that the company is still losing tens of millions of taxpayer dollars a year on food and beverage services.

“Amtrak’s operating losses on food and beverage services have been a long-standing issue, and they contribute directly to the need for federal subsidies to support operations,” Inspector General Ted Alves said in prepared testimony for a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing today, Bloomberg Businessweek first reported.

In fact, nearly all of last year’s $72 million in food-service losses were from providing meals on long-distance trains, the magazine said.

Thomas Hall, the railroad’s customer service chief, said losses have been reduced by 30 percent since 2006, but Florida Republican Rep. John Mica argued that’s only because the company increased ticket prices to cover those losses.

“The Amtrak inspector general has confirmed that Amtrak cooked the books to cover up food service losses that now approach $1 billion,” said Mr. Mica, who chairs the House Oversight Subcommittee on Government Operations.

Amtrak has made a practice of providing free food and alcohol to passengers on long trips. The Auto Train from Virginia to Florida offers complimentary wine and cheese, “and three long-distance routes provide complimentary wine and champagne to sleeper-car passengers, Alves said, costing Amtrak $428,000 in 2012,” Businessweek reported.

Amtrak employees traveling on the Virginia-to-Florida route with free passes consumed about $260,000 in free meals as well, Mr. Alves said.