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Amtrak: the slow train to financial failure

Heavy ridership and hundreds of millions of dollars in yearly subsidies have failed to turn Amtrak profitable. What’s the future for the rail service?

Amtrak: the slow train to financial failure

Amtrak, the largest passenger rail service in the U.S., is more popular than ever. Ridership has steadily increased over the past decade, from 21.8 million back in 2001, to more than 30 million in 2011. It also receives hundreds of millions of dollars each year in federal subsidies.

Yet Amtrak consistently operates in the red, losing about $1 billion each year. Studies point to inefficiencies and mismanagement, along with overhead, repair and maintenance costs as reasons why.

One point of pride for Amtrak is its high-speed Acela trains, which are among its only lines to post profits. Nations like Japan and France, though, are way ahead of the U.S. in the reach and speed of their trains.   

What do others say?

  • : Subsidyscope’s: “Amtrak route performance table” More

  • : CNN: “US high speed rail myths debunked” More

  • : NPR audio: “For Amtrak riders, it’s all aboard despite the cost” More

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