FACTBOX: Amtrak gets a surge in riders

(Reuters) - As oil prices rise, many Americans are rediscovering the railroad. Amtrak saw record numbers in May when ridership rose 12.3 percent from a year earlier, and ticket sales climbed 15.6 percent, according to Amtrak data.

The following are facts about the national passenger railroad in the United States.

* Amtrak carried more than 25.8 million passengers in its fiscal year to September 30, 2007, on a nationwide rail network in 46 states serving about 500 destinations on 21,000 miles

of routes. Wyoming, South Dakota, Alaska and Hawaii are excluded.

* In its current fiscal year to date, ridership is up 10.9 percent to 18.4 million passengers. In May, the number totaled 2,577,189, a 12.3 percent increase over May 2007. May ticket revenues, including revenue from commuter agencies, totaled $153.4 million, up 15.6 percent from a year earlier.

* The National Railroad Passenger Corporation, or Amtrak, was formed on May 1, 1971, as a quasi-public corporation to manage a basic national rail network and operate trains under contracts with the railroads. It was created by an act signed by President Richard Nixon on October 30, 1970.

* According to Republicans in the U.S. Senate, Amtrak has received over $21 billion in federal tax dollars to cover operating and capital costs since 1971 and loses more than $700 million annually.

* Amtrak’s total passengers equal less than 1 percent of the traveling U.S. public. In contrast, Britain, France and Germany all have passenger rail systems that account for about 6 percent to 8 percent of total annual passenger travel miles.

* Amtrak’s premier service, the high-speed Acela Express, averages 82 miles per hour (132 km per hour) although it can hit 150 mph (241 kph) in parts of Rhode Island and Connecticut. By contrast, Japan, France and Germany have developed nationwide rail systems capable of speeds of 150 mph (241 kph) to 185 mph (297 kph) on dedicated tracks with sophisticated signaling systems designed for high-speed trains.

(Sources: Amtrak, the Amtrak Historical Society, U.S. Senate Republicans)

Reporting by Jason Szep; Editing by Eric Beech