Amtrak ridership up almost 6%, revenue up 9%

Okay, you know how much I like the Acela, so I’m not at all surprised to see that Amtrak has shown solid growth through the 2010 fiscal year, which ended on September 30. More than 28.7 million customers rode the rails, a year-over-year gain of 5.7 percent. Ticket revenue surged 9 percent to $1.7 billion, and Acela ridership, indicating growth in Amtrak‘s upscale offer.

Nonetheless, Amtrak did rely on our tax cash. We chipped in $1.49 billion to cover the railroad’s $3.5 billion in expenses, not to mention another $1.3 billion from the federal stimulus program. The stimulus payout went to finance work on tracks, cars and train stations.

[photo by cliff1066 via Flickr]

VIDEO: Inside new German high-speed train

In 2013, Europe could become even easier to navigate, with a new high-speed train connecting Germany with other major cities in Western Europe. The new Deutsche Bahn train would travel at 200 miles per hour from London through the Euro Tunnel, arriving in Amsterdam in four hours (currently only reachable with a connection) and Frankfurt in five hours (down from seven hours on DB). Additional services are planned for Brussels, Cologne and Rotterdam and officials are hopeful this could pave the way for additional high-speed routes.

The above video from BBC goes inside a prototype train currently at London’s St. Pancras Station for safety checks and a test run. Reporter Richard Scott shows off the train’s reclining seats, real-time travel information, and even multi-country emergency stops. Let’s hope they work out any air conditioning problems for the new trains.

Wine or golf? Either works on Rocky Mountaineer

Why not make it a foursome? While most travel deals these days tack on extra nights, the latest from Rocky Mountaineer lets you add people! To celebrate it twentieth anniversary, the luxury rail service in Canada, is offering a unique program for its GoldLeaf trips. Whether you take the golf or winery tour excursion, you can pay for three and get one free. So, you’ll have eight days to hit the links or sip some wine, effectively at a 25 percent discount.

The golf and wine trips will take you between Banff, Alberta and Vancouver, British Columbia. Wine-paired meals are the norm for both excursions. Golfers will enjoy the Predator Ridge Golf Resort, Harvest Golf Club and Fairmont Springs Golf Club. Winery guests will visit Gray Monk Estate Winery, Sumac Ridge Estate Winery and Nk’Mip Winery.

“Rocky Mountaineer is committed to providing the most unforgettable travel experiences in the world,” says Hubert Wat, Vice President, Marketing of Rocky Mountaineer. “We are excited to offer our guests an opportunity to take advantage of a first-class experience that highlights some of the most beautiful and recognized areas of Canada, known for their superb wineries and golf courses.”

Rates start at $7,499 a person, with the wine trips leaving on June 17, 2010 and September 9, 2010. The golf trip departs on June 24, 2010.

Weather and travel issues dominate UK web use during storm

Brits set records last week, as nasty weather sent traffic to transportation and weather websites sky-high. For the week ending January 9, 2010, according to Hitwise Intelligence, weather websites were responsible for 1.5 percent of all internet traffic in the United Kingdom. That’s three times higher than the level reached the same week a year earlier. It also beat the last snowstorm, in February 2009, by 26.9 percent. BBC Weather was #12 on the list of all websites visited in the UK, and the Met Office was #22. There were plenty of peeks at how the trains were doing, as the National Rail Enquiries website ranked 56th among all British websites.

Snow dominated the search engines, as well. UK web users logged more than 146,000 searches containing the word “snow” during the four-week period ending January 9, 2010. “Snow forecast” was the most popular. Snow-related searches were up 378 percent compared to the same period the year before. Searches for “snow chains” grew by a factor of 23, with “snow boots” up by a factor of six.

North Korea to announce availability to Americans

North Korean officials are thinking about opening the country to American visitors all year long. Though we’d still have to use the existing tour operators and have our options constrained once in the country, we’d at least be able to visit the most isolated country on Earth at virtually any time. Since 2005, Americans have only been able to visit during Arirang — and for only up to five days at a time.

Asia Pacific Travel Ltd has been in touch with Korea International Travel Company, North Korea‘s state-run travel business, which said that a decision on the policy regarding U.S. visitors will be made “around January 25. Asia Pacific Travel is also looking into whether Americans will be able to enter the country by train this year. In the past, only air travel has been open to Americans.

According to Walter Keats, President of Asia Pacific Travel, “If the North Koreans let Americans stay longer, we will be able to offer a different and more extensive mix of long and short-stay study tours.”



[Photo by ninjawil via Flickr]