Amtrak Serves Free Wine, Loses $72 Million

The taxpayer-supported passenger railroad is losing millions of dollars a year on food and beverage services

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Correction appended

Amtrak, the federally-supported U.S. national railroad, lost $72 million in food-service expenses last year, with some losses stemming from long-distance trains on which passengers get complimentary wine and cheese.

Inspector General Ted Alves highlighted the food-related shortfalls in testimony at the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing Thursday. Alves said operating losses on food and drink are a major cause of the railroads dependence on federal dollar to keep running.

The railroad’s customer service chief said in prepared remarks that Amtrak expects to break even on food service within five years through changes like introducing cashless sales, staffing reductions and supply-chain improvements.

Florida Republican John Mica said that any improvements in food service finances were a result of mere accounting tricks, Bloomberg reports.

“The Amtrak Inspector General has confirmed that Amtrak cooked the books to cover up food service losses that now approach $1 billion,” Mica said.

Correction: This story originally reported incorrectly the extent to which trains serving complimentary wine and cheese are responsible for the losses Amtrak incurs on food services. Only some of the trains responsible for the heaviest food-services losses serve free wine and cheese, not “almost all” of them.