The National Railroad Passenger Corporation, trading as Amtrak (reporting mark AMTK), is a publicly funded passenger railroad in the United States. Amtrak (mixed word for America with track) was started in 1971 to provide national intercity passenger service. Amtrak operates more than 300 trains daily on some 34,000 km of track. In fiscal 2015, Amtrak served approximately 30.8 million passengers and had revenues of $2.2 billion.
From the mid-19th century to about 1920, nearly all Americans traveling between cities traveled by train. Both the railway lines and the trains were owned and operated by private companies. In 1929 there were an estimated 65,000 train carriages in the US. After 1920, the popularity of passenger trains declined due to the rise of the automobile and national highways, as well as alternatives such as Greyhound Lines long-distance buses. Although the railway companies tried to offer new services and more comfort, rail passenger traffic continued to decline. During the Second World War it went just as much better, but soon after it went further downhill. In 1965 there were only 10,000 passenger carriages in use, traveling on some 120,000 km of track, also a large decrease. Moreover, the railway companies made increasing losses. At the end of the 1960s, the end of passenger trains in the US seemed imminent. After the requests to end the services, there were bankruptcy filings.
However, in 1970 the federal government intervened. Congress passed the Rail Passenger Service Act and President Richard Nixon signed it. Proponents of the law, led by the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP), wanted the government to provide financial support to continue public transportation by rail. To that end, the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (NRPC), a hybrid public-private entity that would receive taxpayers' money and operate intercity passenger trains, was created. Originally, the NRPC went under the name Railpax, but in the end Amtrak was chosen.
In Washington it was thought that the 'experiment' would not last long. The Nixon administration saw Amtrak primarily as a politically advantageous way to give passenger traffic one last chance, as the public wished. They expected Amtrak to quietly disappear as public interest in the matter waned. At the same time, proponents of the system hoped that Amtrak would soon make itself financially self-sufficient. Neither prediction proved correct: support for Amtrak has not waned and financial independence has proved unattainable.
The passenger railways at the time could sign up to Amtrak and thus connect to the network. Only six companies chose not to do this, none of which still operate passenger trains today. Twenty other eligible carriers chose to join Amtrak. Those companies contributed their equipment, capital and personnel and in return received permission to discontinue their low-profit passenger trains (which they had been obliged to operate until then). Amtrak would then take over those tasks from them. Amtrak officially began operating trains on May 1, 1971.
A series of adjustments and renovations were first necessary to consolidate and improve the services of the former railways. Initially, Amtrak continued the lines of the earlier airlines, although half of the services were soon dropped. Amtrak retained only 182 of the 364 connections. In addition, some railway lines were converted to freight