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Amtrak sets ridership record, revenue up

WASHINGTON, Oct. 11 (UPI) -- The U.S. passenger rail system Amtrak says it has recorded an all-time ridership record thanks in part to crowded highways, airport hassles and high gas prices.

Amtrak officials said the system's fiscal 2008 ridership increased to 28.7 million passengers, marking the sixth straight year of gains and setting a record for the most passengers using Amtrak trains since it started operations in 1971.

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The riders brought in $1.7 billion in ticket revenue for Amtrak, a 14.2 percent increase over last year's $1.5 billion.

"After another record-breaking year, in which the railroad achieved double-digit growth, Amtrak has solidified its role as a leader in the nation's transportation network and proven intercity passenger rail's relevance in today's world," said Amtrak President and CEO Alex Kummant. "Highway and airway congestion, volatile fuel prices and increasing environmental awareness all contributed to Amtrak's successful year, as did our continually improving service and on-time performance."

Kummant said a new capital matching program law passed by the U.S. Congress will spur states to establish new passenger rail service with Amtrak in high-growth U.S. rail corridors.

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