Amtrak announced that it would make “aggressive” efforts in 2012 to improve and expand, noting the that record ridership numbers indicates rising demand for intercity passenger rail service, according to The Hill.
Last year Amtrak reported more than 30 million passengers on its trains––more riders than it had in any of its previous 40 years of operation. A congressional battle ensued over a Republican plan to privatize some of Amtrak’s most profitable rail lines through the Northeast. Democrats and advocates of government spending on rail projects used the numbers to argue against the plan.
By the end of 2011, that plan had been scrapped, and the agency then announced its goals to focus on growth in 2012. Among the proposals Amtrak mentioned are 70 electric locomotives and 130 new long-distance rail cars, and electronic ticketing on all trains.
Amtrak also said it would continue to work on its plan to increase the speed of its trains to 220 miles per hour in 30 years, which some Republicans have argued is too long a timetable for achieving high-speed rail.
Despite this criticism, Amtrak CEO Joseph Boardman said the agency "is building the equipment, infrastructure and organization needed to ensure our strong growth continues into the future.
“We are investing in projects critical for enhancing the passenger experience, essential for supporting our national network of services and vital for the future of America’s Railroad,” he said in a statement.
Boardman said Amtrak's plans for 2012 included upgrading tracks the agency owns in the Northeast rail corridor–– the target of the Republican privatization efforts. He said the agency would also work on "bridges and other infrastructure" and seek to expand its existing Acela high-speed rail service.
The agency will also attempt to lay the groundwork for its "gateway program" to increase the capacity of railways leading into New York City, Boardman added.