Labour costs are part of Amtrak‘s problem, but they’re not the heart of it. That honour goes to the company’s unprofitable, unpopular, slow and generally indefensible long-haul routes. Like most of Amtrak’s problems, the food-service losses—even the labour-cost portion of them—stem mostly from long-haul services. The food car on the Acela Express from New York to Washington, DC, is not the problem—it’s the food service on trains like the Empire Builder and the Texas Eagle that really puts a strain on Amtrak’s budget.

Amtrak #406

Amtrak, including its food services, is profitable in the Northeast Corridor. Photo by John Pastor.

Amtrak loses a lot of money providing food service on its long-haul routes because it loses a lot of money on almost everything related to those routes. Long-haul passenger train trips, especially at Amtrak speeds, are for hobbyists, people with lots of time and very restricted budgets, and people who are afraid of flying.