More than 80,000 Americans have taken long-distance trains each day, an increase of 40% on normal, in a country where inter-city air travel was the norm.

Amtrak has now told the American government that if it is to cope with such an increase in future it will need £2billion in aid so it can buy more coaches and upgrade its tracks.

Some air ticket holders were given free travel on Amtrak when flights were suspended last week. It has also been carrying thousands of emergency workers to New York free.

But Amtrak wants to ensure long-term passenger security by building a new control and communications centre.

Air travel is tremendously bad for the environment spilling out large amounts of pollution in a sensitive part of the atmosphere.

At least some good may result from the New York tragedy if more Americans re-discover the pleasure of travelling by train and its environmental benefits.

Even before the New York attack, use of public transport had been growing in America for five ears in succession.

The number of trips taken on public transportation grew by 21%, growing faster than the U.S. population (4.8 percent), highway use (11 percent), and domestic air travel (19 percent).

In 2000 alone, public transportation ridership went up by 3.5%, compared to the previous year, according to the American Public Transportation Association. That was four times faster than the U.S. population (0.9 percent), faster than domestic air travel (2.6 percent) and car use, which was flat.

'Americans are taking public transportation because they know it is a smart choice, ' said William W. Millar, APTA President. 'Easy-to-use quality public transportation provides access, freedom and mobility to help people do what is important to them.'

Modes of transportation showing the largest percentage increases in ridership for 2000 were heavy rail (subways) 7.6%, light rail 5.3% and commuter rail 5.2 percent.

In San Francisco's BART heavy rail system clocked up 7.6% growth, San Jose, California's light rail system 34% and Denver's light rail system 40.6%.

Rail campaigner Ross Capon said: ‘It has become more apparent than ever that our transportation system and economy would be far stronger and more resilient if we had a world class passenger rail system.’

It is critical that the High Speed Rail Investment Act
be enacted this year. Enactment would let states begin to invest in
corridors the Department of Transport already has identified.

Mr Capon, executive director of the National Association of Railroad Passengers, added: ‘This important emergency package is no substitute for a long-term commitment to a nationwide system.

‘People want and need meaningful travel choices - including modern train

More information: National Association of Railroad Passengers
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