Amtrak: Ridership up despite 'chronically underfunded' infrastructure

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Amtrak ridership increased on its busiest line during the rail operator's 2014 fiscal year, but lagging infrastructure upgrades slowed overall passenger growth, Amtrak reported Monday.

During the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, Amtrak ridership increased 0.2% year over year to 30.9 million, and ticket revenues increased 4% to $2.19 billion. Amtrak noted year-over-year ridership growth was slower than in recent years "due, in part, to a harsh winter season and on-time performance issues associated with freight train delays and infrastructure in need of replacement."

Ridership on the busy Washington-to-Boston Northeast Corridor line increased 3.3% to 11.6 million, an all-time record, and the high-speed Acela Express service also had record ridership, according to Amtrak. Ridership was down, however, on both long-distance routes (down 4.5%) and state-supported services (down 0.6%). Many of those routes use tracks that are owned and dispatched by freight railroads that are in need of infrastructure upgrades, according to Amtrak.

"Not only are delays to passenger trains on these tracks increasing, but so, too, is the magnitude of those delays," Amtrak reported. "On many of these routes, passenger rail has experienced a significant decline in on-time performance, lower ridership and revenue and increased operating costs."

Amtrak noted that it is "pursuing remedies through the federal Surface Transportation Board" to address those issues in addition to working with freight railroads. The rail operator added that its busiest lines also "suffer from a chronic case of long-term underfunding" and require a new federal policy and funding arrangement to get back into shape.

"Investments must be made in the tracks, tunnels, bridges and other infrastructure used by intercity passenger trains, particularly on the Northeast Corridor and in Chicago," Amtrak president and CEO Joe Boardman said in a statement. "Otherwise, we face a future with increased infrastructure-related service disruptions and delays that will hurt local and regional economies and drive passengers away."

Source: Business Travel News

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