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Rail News: Amtrak

Amtrak on track to break ridership record in FY24

"We are on target to set a new all-time ridership record by exceeding the 32.3 million passengers we carried in that record-breaking year before the COVID-19 pandemic," said Amtrak CEO Stephen Gardner.
Photo – Amtrak


Amtrak’s ridership has increased 20% and ticket revenue is up 10% in the first seven-months of fiscal-year 2024 compared with the same period last year, Amtrak CEO Stephen Gardner told a U.S. House subcommittee yesterday.

“Our fiscal-year-to-date ridership is higher than during the same period in fiscal-year 2019,” Gardner said in his written testimony. “As planned, we are on target to set a new all-time ridership record by exceeding the 32.3 million passengers we carried in that record-breaking year before the COVID-19 pandemic produced huge declines in ridership from which most North American passenger railroads have yet to recover.”

While year-to-date revenue is also higher so far than in 2019, it has been impacted by reduced business travel since the pandemic, as virtual meetings have replaced many short-travel trips, Gardner said.

“Despite this, we still anticipate improving our bottom-line performance with a reduced operating loss this year,” he added.

Gardner said Amtrak’s ridership trend so far this year is “particularly encouraging” despite two major challenges: less seat capacity than the railroad had in 2019 due to delays in starting service with new Siemens rail cars and Alstom-built Acela trains, resulting in older vehicles requiring major repairs; and service interruptions on Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner route in California due to worsening erosion of Pacific Coast bluffs along railroad right-of-way.

Gardner also reported that so far in FY2024:
• operating costs are increasing due to several factors, including inflation, higher wages for union-represented employees, rising cybersecurity expenses, a 24% increase in Amtrak’s share of state-supported service operating costs and higher expenses related to once-in-a-generation infrastructure projects;
• capital expenditures climbed from $1.6 billion in FY2019 to nearly $5 billion this year and are projected to be $8.3 billion next year;
• Amtrak experienced zero National Transportation Safety Board-reportable accidents and currently has no open NTSB investigations; and
• Amtrak is sustaining the 20% decrease in employee injuries achieved last year and is within striking distance of meeting its aggressive goal for further reduction.

Moreover, Amtrak is working with the Federal Railroad Administration and local, state and private-sector partners to expand intercity passenger-rail service. For example:
• On May 21, Amtrak launched the Borealis service, a new state-supported route that operates from St. Paul, Minnesota, to Milwaukee and Chicago;
• Amtrak is working with state, local and host railroad partners to resolve the remaining issues to allow Amtrak to begin operating its Gulf Coast service between New Orleans and Mobile, Alabama;
 • In December 2023, Amtrak began running two additional round trips between Seattle and Portland, Oregon, on the Cascades route; and
• Earlier this month, Amtrak added a third round trip on the Valley Flyer route between Springfield and Greenfield, Massachusetts.

Gardner’s entire testimony to the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials can be read here.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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