US passenger railroad company Amtrak is poised to post a profit for the first time in its 50-year history.

Fox Business reports that while the firm posted a $29.8 million operating loss in 2019, the quasi-public company had record revenues of $3.3 billion and set a new ridership record of 32.5 million travellers.

Overall earnings, although still in the red, rose 82.6 per cent last year, offering hope that Amtrak could post a profit in 2020.

Amtrak also invested $1.6 billion in capital improvements in 2019.

“Looking at other domestic and foreign passenger rail operators, these results are truly industry-leading, and this efficiency enables us to dedicate the highest possible proportion of our federal support to vital capital investments in safety, capacity and upgrades to enhance our customers’ experience while travelling,” said Amtrak President and CEO Richard Anderson.

However, some of the changes that Anderson has made in the quest for profitability, such as cutting service to some cities and ending traditional dining-car meals on some routes, have proven controversial.

A recent report suggests the group is also considering new fees for changing itineraries, as well as the introduction of nonrefundable tickets.

Republican Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), the House Transportation Committee chairman, said that becoming a for-profit company might not be the right goal for Amtrak.

“I think they should think about efficiency but not profit,” he said. “Amtrak is a service, and it can be a better service.”

Business Traveller recently interviewed Caroline Decker, vice president of the Northeast Corridor Service Line, on growing demand, funding, and the introduction of new Alstom-made high-speed trains.

Amtrak says growing demand makes case for US rail funding