RAILROADS: Light in Amtrak's Tunnel

FOR most of its first two years, Amtrak, the quasi-public corporation created to preserve U.S. railroad passenger service, seemed to be highballing down the final stretch of track toward extinction. Amtrak began operations on May 1, 1971, by discontinuing almost half the nation's rail passenger service; as it rolled through the next 20 months, it lost $239 million. Last year its long distance trains ran late 47% of the time, and drew angry complaints from riders about dirty cars, erratic heating systems and rest-room toilets that did not flush.

Stubbornly optimistic, Amtrak...

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