Wednesday, January 13, 2010

State of Amtrak is strong, CEO says

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Amtrak President and CEO Joseph Boardman said that the state of America's passenger railroad is strong and it had set a first quarter ridership record carrying nearly 7.2 million passengers during the first three months of fiscal year 2010.

In his State of the Railroad remarks, he also said there is reason to be optimistic about the future declaring "the days of wondering if Amtrak is going to survive another year are behind us. This year, and the years ahead are, and will be, focused on growth."

He said his optimism is driven, in part, by the record-breaking 7.2 million passengers who rode Amtrak trains in the first quarter of FY 2010 (October/November/December of 2009). Fueled by a record number of Thanksgiving holiday travelers and strong December ridership, it was 1.4 percent above the previous record of about 7.1 million set in the first quarter of FY 2008-which turned out to be the best ridership year in Amtrak history.

Boardman also emphasized "Amtrak is changing and rising to meet the challenge" of a new era of passenger rail and that "the investments we're making and the steps we're taking to improve are designed to secure our leadership position in the industry and to stand out from the competition."

He added that Amtrak has "set aggressive goals to maximize our new opportunities" in which Congress has provided a strong long-term mission for Amtrak, the White House has presented a vision for intercity passenger rail, and there is tremendous support at the state level.

One of the most significant opportunities is the major role Amtrak is playing in the development and expansion of intercity and high-speed passenger rail. The national passenger railroad is partnering with 25 states in support of more than 100 projects submitted for funding from the $8 billion made available by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for capital improvement grants.

Boardman explained "it seems likely that a significant number of the grant awards will involve improvements to routes over which Amtrak operates. That is obviously good for Amtrak, but it is also good for America, our passengers, the communities we serve, and our state partners." An announcement from the U.S. Department of Transportation on which projects have been selected to receive grant funding is expected this winter.

He concluded his remarks by saying the years ahead for Amtrak will be "filled with achievements that will demonstrate a safer, greener, healthier, improved financial and customer focused railroad that lives up to its role in meeting America's national passenger rail needs."

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