Long Distance Trains Are Federal Responsibility

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  • May 21, 2013

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Congress in charge of intercity passenger rail since 1971

WASHINGTON – The operation of long distance trains is a core federal responsibility since 1971 and a federally-funded national system is the best way to keep costs low, provide customer choices that build ridership and develop economies of scale, Amtrak President and CEO Joe Boardman told a Congressional committee today.

“Congress is clearly 100 percent in charge in directing how long distance train service is provided in the United States and has been ever since it created Amtrak more than 40 years ago,” Boardman said. “Should Congress again decide in the next passenger rail reauthorization to continue a national system, Amtrak is dedicated to ensuring that long distance trains are sustained and run as efficiently and effectively as possible.”

Boardman explained that federal law requires Amtrak to operate a national passenger rail system that includes long distance routes. The current law also includes a “Sense of Congress” statement that declares “long distance passenger rail is a vital and necessary part of our national transportation system and economy.”

He noted that long distance trains are a public service, provide national connectivity and mobility, feed riders onto the rapidly growing state-supported corridor services and deliver about half a million passengers to the Northeast Corridor each year. Since 2006, ridership on long distance trains is up nearly 27 percent and in FY 2012, six of the 15 routes set new ridership records. In addition, Amtrak long distance trains serve 40 percent of America’s rural population and are the only remaining scheduled intercity transportation in many places as intercity bus and airline service disappear from smaller communities.

Boardman stressed that a focus on improving financial performance is achieving results for America’s Railroad®, including: setting new records for ridership, revenue and on-time performance; covering 88 percent of operating costs with ticket sales and other revenues; reducing federal operating support to just 12 percent; and significantly paying down debt.

He also stated that making Amtrak better is not solely about controlling and cutting costs. For example, in FY 2012, about 50 percent of Amtrak expenses were for labor costs—an amount not unique for the service industry and lower than the 55 percent average for the manufacturing sector in the U.S.

Boardman said that the national intercity passenger rail network delivers a huge public benefit and that every penny made is reinvested in Amtrak with an overwhelming majority of revenues and funding spent in America.

About Amtrak®

Amtrak is America’s Railroad®, the nation’s intercity passenger rail service and its high-speed rail operator. Amtrak and its state and commuter partners move people, the economy and the nation forward. Formally known as the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, Amtrak is governed by a nine member board of directors appointed by the President of the United States and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Anthony R. Coscia is board chairman and Jeffrey R. Moreland is vice chairman. In FY 2014, nearly 31 million passengers traveled on Amtrak on more than 300 daily trains – at speeds up to 150 mph (241 kph) – that connect 46 states, the District of Columbia and three Canadian Provinces. Enjoy the journey® at Amtrak.com or call 800-USA-RAIL for schedules, fares and more information. Like us on Facebook, Follow us on Twitter (@Amtrak) and check out our blog at blog.amtrak.com.

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