Last week, Amtrak reported an operating loss of $29.8m across its entire transcontinental network of railroads in the fiscal year 2019 — a huge improvement over its $170.6m loss in 2018.
But, even more surprisingly, Amtrak also announced that it’s on track to break even by next summer — which would be a first in the company’s 48-year history.
Wait a second — how has Amtrak never turned a profit?
It all has to do with Amtrak’s strange origins: The company — whose full corporate name is technically the “National Railroad Passenger Corporation” — was chartered by Congress to address declining railroad usage across the country.
So, while the company is technically private, it is also almost entirely owned by the government (and, well, you know how that goes… ).
But, although the company has relied on one continuous government rail-out for 50 years, it could finally straighten out its operation soon.
That’s right: Amtrak has finally achieved ‘economies of rail’
So, how did Amtrak reverse its fortunes?
Amtrak says it has doubled down on its service in the Northeast Corridor (AKA between DC and Boston), which is the only regional corridor where it actually makes money. Elsewhere, the company says it has plans to scale back its long-distance, cross-country trips.
The railway’s expansion efforts have garnered mixed reviews among customers in different regions.
Critics have railed against the company’s plans to cut rural routes, while proponents have gushed over Amtrak’s plush new railcars as just the kind of infrastructural improvements they’d been freighting for.