Friday, March 12, 2010

Amtrak: Ridership, market share grow; equipment ages

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At a meeting Thursday in Washington, D.C., Amtrak officials said ridership for the first fiscal quarter of 2010 (Oct.-Dec. 2009) was up over the comparable period in FY09, when ridership declined due to recession. But the first quarter also trumped its first-quarter FY08 counterpart; Amtrak notched record ridership in the 12 months of FY08.


“Ridership and revenue are ahead of plan,” said Amtrak Vice President of Government Affairs and Corporate Communications Joe McHugh, addressing members of the Railway Supply Institute assembled to exchange ideas on Amtrak’s supply needs.

McHugh noted FY10 ridership so far also was strong throughout the Amtrak system. Responding to a question on Northeast Corridor performance, McHugh said Amtrak now commanded 65%-to-66% of the combined air/rail market between New York and Washington, D.C.  More surprising to some attending was the gains made by the NEC between New York and Boston; McHugh said Amtrak now held “50%-to-51% of the air/rail market” there.

The information exchange came as Amtrak and the supplier industry discussed the promises and problems involved in acquiring rolling stock and other supplies for future service improvements and expansion, and the best approach for both the passenger carrier and the supplier community to secure such improvement.

The need for rolling stock, in particular is becoming critical: Consultant Rob Edgcumbe, assisting Amtrak’s Operations Department, noted that the carrier’s current operating fleet has “an average age of over 25 years—the highest in Amtrak history, even older than the 1971 average,” when Amtrak inherited used passenger equipment from numerous railroads. 

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