Amtrak, the U.S. long-distance passenger railroad, said it carried the most passengers in its 41-year history, with ridership up 3.5 percent in the year ended Sept. 30.
The Washington-based railroad carried 31.2 million passengers as ticket revenue rose 6.8 percent to $2 billion, it said today in an e-mailed statement. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has pledged if elected to end U.S. taxpayer support for the railroad, which was about $1.4 billion for fiscal 2012.
“People are riding Amtrak trains in record numbers across the country because there is an undeniable demand to travel by rail,” Chief Executive Officer Joe Boardman said in the statement. “Ridership will continue to grow because of key investments made by Amtrak and our federal and state partners to improve on-time performance, reliability, capacity and train speeds.”
From October through July, Amtrak lost $1.05 billion, more than the $970 million loss it had forecast for that period.
Romney, who says he wants to balance the U.S. budget without raising taxes or curbing spending on retirees, has said Amtrak aid would be one of the cuts he would make. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica, a Florida Republican, has held a series of hearings this year highlighting what he says is mismanagement and excessive federal spending on Amtrak.
U.S. taxpayers have provided subsidies of $50.97 per Amtrak ticket sold for the past five years, Mica said at a hearing last month.
Amtrak says it covers 85 percent of its operating costs from ticket revenue. Taxpayers cover its capital and debt costs. The railroad, created to relieve freight carriers of money-losing passenger operations, has never made an annual profit.
The Northeast Corridor, the only place Amtrak gets enough revenue to cover operating costs, had a 4.8 percent increase in ridership to a record of about 11.4 million passengers. Ridership on regional trains in the corridor between Washington and Boston rose 6.6 percent, outpacing the 0.5 percent increase in passengers on the higher-speed Acelas covering the same route.