The National Railroad Passenger Corporation popularly known as Amtrak is a national rail passenger service that provides rail transportation between the major cities in the United States. Amtrak also offers commuter service, mail delivery, and express freight. Amtrak is a private corporation almost entirely owned by the United States Department of Transportation.


On 1st May 1971, passenger trains run by the National Railroad Passenger Corporation wound up their activities as revealed as the two-year federal plan to resuscitate and save intercity and long-distance rail passenger services in the US. Amtrak was created by Congress via the Railroad Passenger Service Act and incorporated in D.C. The Department of Transportation owned the lion’s share of the firm’s stock while a board of directors governed the company lead by the head of the corporation, secretary of Transportation and eleven members most of whom were Presidential appointees. In its first year of operation, the corporation ran under the name Railpax. Following the commencement of operations, the tag was altered to Amtrak, a constriction of America and track. The corporation was charged with attaining three goals: to run rail passenger services on a profit-making basis, to use fresh marketing and operating methods to realize the potential of contemporary railway passenger service to satisfy intercity transportation demands and to facilitate adequate intercity rail passenger services.


Long before the creation of Amtrak, the intercity rail service had been on a two-decade rot. Railroads were the only means for long-distance travel until the 1950’s. All the while, the federal government commenced on a programme that saw it pump $41 billion to the interstate highway system. This 16-year project that saw the introduction of jet airplanes which significantly bolstered the construction and upgrading of existing airports. Personal vehicles, buses and airplanes began competing for the nation’s railroads for long-distance trips. The tracks countered the competition with advanced equipment on their routes, supplanting steam locomotives with new diesel engines and lightweight stainless steel wagons with air-conditioning and dual glazed windows. Passenger numbers, however, continued to plummet and in turn, the rail services providers had little incentive to embark on significant investments to upgrade their stations, maintenance facilities, signalling, and tracks.

Federal Action

The Railroad Passenger Service Act permitted railroad companies to shift their declining passenger services to Amtrak in exchange for Amtrak stock or tax write-off. Three lines chose not to join Amtrak and pursue their passenger service operations; Denver & Rio Grande Western, Southern and Rock Island. The network routes were established by the Transport Department, railroad unions, fifteen railroad firms, the Interstate Commerce Commission, US senators, and three thousand members of the public on behalf of the new corporation.

The 1970’s: First Decade

Even though Amtrak operated more than 24,000 miles of rail and in 24 states, the venture Amtrak ran wasn’t exactly a national transport system. In fact, Amtrak was a broker. It ran 119 trains, 1,200 cars – sleepers, diners, observation cars, and coaches. The Railroad companies donated cars to Amtrak but still owned the locomotives, maintenance facilities, employees, terminals, stations, and yards.

The 1980’s: Second Decade

In 1983, Amtrak employed its engineers, conductors and various assistants starting with the Northeast Corridor trains. By 1987, Amtrak hired most of the employees around the country. Through its subsidiary arm Amtrak Commuter Services Corporation, Amtrak took over northeast operations formerly ran by Conrail.

1990’s: Self Sufficiency

The Clinton administration challenged Amtrak to be self-sufficient. To attain this, the firm adopted a plan that aimed at decentralizing Amtrak to three units into bolster responsiveness and accountability. The company began cutting routes, raising fares and implemented cost-cutting programs.

2000’s – Growing Budgets

In 2003, the Bush administration allocated $2 billion in six years to Amtrak despite opposition from both Republicans and Democrat congressional leaders. Throughout its existence, Amtrak receives considerably less funding from the government compared to aviation and highways.