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updated: 1/10/2013 10:41 AM

Amtrak's annual losses at lowest level since 1975

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Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- Amtrak's fiscal 2012 operating loss was the lowest in nearly 38 years, which is a sign of progress, Joseph Boardman, the railroad's president and CEO, said Thursday.

The $361 million loss for the year ending Sept. 30 was down 19 percent from the previous year. The last time Amtrak losses were less was 1975.

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In a conference call with reporters, Boardman also laid out an agenda for this year that includes delivery of the first of 70 new electric locomotives and 130 long-distance passenger cars, expansion of the Acela Express high-speed service in the Northeast with an additional New York-Washington round trip, and beginning the work necessary to acquire new high-speed trains.

The new electric locomotives will operate at speeds of up to 125 mph in the Northeast Corridor between Washington and Boston and up to 110 mph between Philadelphia and Harrisburg, replacing locomotives that have been in service for as long as three decades. The new locomotives will be easier to maintain and more energy efficient, using regenerative braking to feed energy back into the power grid, the railroad said.

Amtrak is also working on upgrading its Wi-Fi service available to passengers to faster, more reliable 4G wireless service as cellular carriers expand their 4G footprint along the railroad's routes. The 4G service is currently being tested and should be available soon, although no date has been set, Boardman said.

Amtrak will also ask Congress for money to help with design and early construction of elements of its Gateway program to preserve a pathway for two new Hudson River tunnels to New York's Penn Station. An Amtrak funding bill is on Congress' agenda, but the railroad faces deep skepticism from House Republicans.

Amtrak trains carried 31.2 million passengers in the fiscal year ending in September, the highest annual ridership since Congress created the railroad in 1971.

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