January 17, 2020

Warren Seeks Clarification from Amtrak on Reports of Impending Changes to Fare Policies That Could Impact Massachusetts Passengers

Reports Suggest Imposition of Non-Refundable Fares, Airline-Style Change Fees May be Imminent

Washington, D.C. - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) wrote to Amtrak seeking clarification about potential changes in Amtrak's pricing and fare policies that would impact rail passengers in Massachusetts and throughout New England and the Northeast Corridor.

Business Insider reported last month on a leaked internal document showing proposed changes to Amtrak's pricing and fare policies. According to the report, Amtrak is considering making its cheapest fares, the "saver" fares, "completely nonrefundable and nonchangeable 24 hours after purchase." The document also suggests that Amtrak plans to subject its "value" fares to a 25% cancellation fee or a 15% change fee "within 14 days of departure." The value fares currently can be fully refunded up to eight days prior to departure.

In her letter, Senator Warren expressed concern with the proposed changes, noting that residents in Massachusetts, New England, and the Northeast region rely heavily on Amtrak for professional and leisure travel. In 2018, there were over 3.3 million Amtrak "boardings and alightings" at Massachusetts stations, with the Northeast Corridor accounting for 37% of Amtrak's passengers and 38% of its total revenues.

"I am concerned that the proposed changes would increase prices and fees, especially on families and communities with lower incomes who rely on the cheaper fares and whose schedules can be less predictable, and distressed that Amtrak officials have, to date, refused to provide any public information or receive any public input on these proposals," wrote Senator Warren in her letter to Amtrak Chief Executive Richard Anderson.

The senator urged Amtrak to reconsider these changes and asked Mr. Anderson to provide a full accounting of any proposed changes, including a schedule for implementation and any internal estimates on the impact on passengers.