Fri, 29 Sep 2023

Amtrak CEO: Rail ridership near pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels

Robert Besser
10 Jun 2023, 08:59 GMT+10

WASHINGTON D.C.: Amtrak CEO Stephen Gardner said this week that despite projected losses of $800 million for the current budget year, the U.S. rail company expects ridership to soon return to pre-pandemic levels.

Speaking to a US House subcommittee, Gardner said, "The ridership in the seven months ending 30th April was 84 percent of 2019 levels, and ticket revenues were 95 percent of what they were before the pandemic, as ticket prices are up about 30 percent since then."

Amtrak reported an adjusted operating loss of $884.9 million for 2022 and aims to break even in the coming years.

"Financial performance is not Amtrak's sole objective. If it were, we would do what the last private owner of the Northeast Corridor did: declare bankruptcy; get rid of our obligations to maintain the infrastructure and operate passenger trains; and go into the real estate business with the property and assets we own along the corridor," Gardner said.

Amtrak has since applied for government grants worth $8 billion to modernize bridges, tunnels, and other aging infrastructure, Amtrak said.

As part of the 2021 infrastructure bill, Congress approved $66 billion for rail, with $22 billion being allocated to Amtrak.

The bill also allocates $36 billion for competitive grants, which Amtrak aims to win to fund the replacement or rehabilitation of tunnels, bridges, and other aging infrastructure.

A new tunnel will reduce Washington to Baltimore trip time to less than 30 minutes, Gardner said.

After its ridership grew 45 percent from 2003 to 2019 to 32.3 million passengers, Amtrak aims to double its U.S. ridership by 2040, said officials.

Amtrak services 46 U.S. states and 3 Canadian provinces.

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