Amtrak named former Delta Air Lines (NYSE: DAL) chief Richard Anderson as its next president and CEO on Monday.
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Anderson, who spent 25 years in the aviation industry, will begin his role at the railroad company on July 12. He will serve as co-CEO with current chief executive Wick Moorman through the end of 2017; at that time, Moorman will become an advisor to Amtrak.
“The board believes he is the right leader at the right time to drive the quality of customer service that our passengers, partners and stakeholders expect and deserve while continuing our path towards operational and financial excellence,” said Amtrak Chairman of the Board Tony Coscia.
The leadership change comes in the midst of struggles for Amtrak, specifically in the Northeast. The publically funded company, has come under fire from politicians and the public alike for multiple service issues and delays at New York’s Pennsylvania Station and along the Northeast Corridor (NEC), one of the busiest commuter rail lines in the U.S.
Amtrak released its eight-week summer work project in late May, which focused on long-awaited infrastructure repairs at Penn Station, and would directly impact commuters of New Jersey Transit and the Long Island Rail Road into and out of New York City.
In April, a New Jersey Transit train (which also uses the NEC and terminates service at Penn Station) derailed causing mayhem for commuters, as eight of the station’s 21 tracks were closed following the accident. About a week earlier, one of Amtrak’ Acela trains derailed and collided with an NJ Transit train. Amtrak took responsibility for both incidents, blaming the former on weakening wooden rail ties and the latter on mismatching rail pieces.
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“The simple fact of the matter is that some of the track and infrastructure in service today at Penn Station was built in the 1970s at a time when we were handling half the trains and a third of the customers that we do today,” Moorman said in an April statement.
While the population and economy continue to grow in the Northeast, the condition of the NEC continues to worsen, as upgrades and repairs to signals, power systems and tracks to add capacity to meet the growing demands are on hold due to pending funding, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Infrastructure Report Card. Some projects have taken place, but the average age of the NEC’s backlog projects is still 111 years, the report said.
President Donald Trump’s budget proposal has called for decreasing funding to the Department of Transportation by 13 percent. Under the DOT’s budget cut, funding for Amtrak’s long-distance routes would be eliminated, with the administration citing inefficiencies associated with the services and adding that the move would allow more funds to be directed toward the NEC, the railroad company’s most profitable line.
“This would allow Amtrak to focus on better managing its State-supported and Northeast Corridor train services,” the budget document said.