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Record revenues reported by Amtrak

| Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012, 8:04 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Amtrak continues to rely on government subsidies but served more travelers in the past year than ever before and posted record ticket revenues, its leader told lawmakers on Wednesday.

“While there are still plenty of challenges ahead, the basics for success are definitely here and Amtrak is doing well,” Amtrak President and CEO Joseph Boardman told members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Amtrak, set up 41 years ago, has never functioned as the for-profit corporation it was intended to be. Last year, in response to criticisms of the railroad's performance, Boardman introduced a five-year strategic plan intended to streamline the organization, reduce costs and boost revenue.

“When we're done, Amtrak will look more like a business and less like a government agency,” Boardman told lawmakers. “Customers will find that our system is easier to use, more convenient, timelier and more comfortable.”

The new plan involves reorganizing Amtrak into six business lines, with each line held accountable for revenue goals and losses. The reorganization should be complete by the end of 2013.

Wednesday's hearing to examine the plan was the committee's fourth hearing on Amtrak this year. The panel plans to reauthorize rail programs next year.

Amtrak's federal funding formula expires in September, and the railroad is looking for federal help to build a $151 billion high-speed rail line between Washington and Boston. It wants to undertake a $6.5 billion renovation of Union Station.

Previous hearings have focused on losses in Amtrak's food and beverage service, the railroad's inability to compete with the private sector for commuter rail operating contracts, and Amtrak's continued reliance on federal subsidies, which last year totaled $1.4 billion.

Committee Chairman John Mica, R-Fla., a critic of Amtrak, plans two more hearings before the end of the year.

“Sometimes our role is one of oversight, sometimes of prodding,” he said.

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