Dems use Amtrak ridership numbers in privatization fight

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House Republicans have argued that rail service in the populous Northeast should be privatized because non-governmental companies would provide faster service for passengers than the Acela line operated between Washington and Boston by Amtrak.

Amtrak is a government-owned corporation that is subsidized by Congress. The agency said Thursday that its ridership had increased 5 percent in 2011, and ticket sales had risen 8 percent.

The GOP's proposal would remove Amtrak from control of the federally-designated Northeast rail corridor and transfer it to the Department of Transportation. A newly-created Northeast Corridor Executive Committee would oversee bidding process for rail projects in the northeast.

Rahall said Thursday the ridership numbers released by Amtrak showed that was a bad idea.

"It makes no sense to tear apart a railroad and its workforce while they are succeeding at their jobs," he said. "That is no way to run a railroad.”

Amtrak CEO Joseph Boardman, who has criticized the privatization plan in testimony to Congress, agreed.

The numbers show that "Amtrak is fulfilling its national mission and is part of the solution to meet America's growing transportation and energy needs," he said in a statement.