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Even in a Year Marred by Accidents, Amtrak's Losses Shrink

Amtrak’s operating losses narrowed to a new best in its 2018 fiscal year even while the railroad experienced a spate of high-profile accidents and rushed to install new safety equipment ahead of a federal deadline, according a preview of its annual results released by the company.

Amtrak’s adjusted earnings -- its preferred method that excludes depreciation and other expenses -- were an operating loss of $168 million in its year ending Sept. 30, a 13 percent improvement from the previous year, the company said. Revenue grew 2.2 percent to $3.4 billion while ridership held steady at about 31.7 million customer trips.

All told, it was "the best performance in Amtrak’s history," Chief Executive Officer Richard Anderson said in an interview.

The financial improvements came against a backdrop of deadly accidents and a major push to improve safety throughout the fiscal year. Five people were killed and more than 160 injured in two major accidents last year, one last December in Washington State and another in February in South Carolina.

Anderson said Amtrak’s operating losses would have likely been less than $100 million if not for those two accidents.

He also reaffirmed that the railroad will have the Positive Train Control crash-prevention technology operational on the tracks it owns, such as the critical Northeast Corridor between Washington and Boston, in time for a year-end federal deadline.

"This is the single most important thing that we’re doing today at Amtrak," Anderson said of Positive Train Control, which is designed to avoid derailments and collisions by automatically applying brakes.

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