Posts Tagged ‘Richard Anderson’

Amtrak Makes Changes in Executive Ranks

June 7, 2019

Amtrak has made two changes in its upper executive ranks.

It has named Tracie Winbigler as executive vice president and chief financial officer, and appointed Stephen Gardner as chief operating and commercial officer.

Winbigler will join Amtrak on June 24 and be responsible for the carrier’s finance, treasury, accounting and control functions.

She most recently served as CFO at Recreational Equipment Incorporated and before that spent three years at National Geographic where she served as chief operating officer for part of her time there.

Gardner has been named to a newly created position and will report directly to Amtrak President Richard Anderson.

Gardner will be responsible for Amtrak’s day-to-day operations. Other duties will include overseeing the annual operating plan and strengthening coordination between functions across the railroad

He will oversee Amtrak’s operations, administration, marketing, strategy and planning, information technology, product development and customer experience, government affairs and corporate communications functions.

Gardner is already a senior executive vice president at Amtrak, a post he has held since December 2018.

Long-Distance Trains Likely Safe Through FY2020

May 27, 2019

Amtrak has signaled to Congress that it may not support continuation of all current long-distance trains when it sends its proposed reauthorization proposal to Capitol Hill this fall.

In a letter to Senator Jerry Moran of Kansas, Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson said the carrier plans to continue operating the existing long-distance network through fiscal year 2020.

However, Anderson said the carrier intends to have a conversation with Congress and its stakeholders regarding the future of its long-distance network.

Anderson said the carrier believes there is a future for “high-quality long-distance trains,” but it also believes that the size, nature and roles need to be reviewed.

He said Amtrak will include options and recommendations in its reauthorization proposal to improve the national network, including the long-distance routes.

Anderson was responding to a letter sent to him by eleven senators posing questions about the future of the national network.

Moran told the Kansas New Service that he expects Congress to use the annual appropriations process to mandate that Amtrak continue serving its existing long-distance routes.

But Moran cautioned that it will still need a fight.

“I need to make sure that Amtrak, its board of directors, its management has a commitment to long-term passenger services in places in the country in which it’s not probably ever going to be profitable,” he said,.

Moran said he will continue to hold all nominees to Amtrak’s board of directors until he gets assurances that the Southwest Chief will continue to operate over the length of its Chicago to Los Angeles route as is.

Amtrak Touts Increased Ridership in FY2019

May 3, 2019

Amtrak said this week that ridership in fiscal year 2019 is up 1.3 percent over where it was in March 2018 and that the passenger carrier is on pace to reach the break-even mark in operating earnings by FY2021.

If the performance thus far holds up for the remainder of FY2019, Amtrak said this would make its best performing year in its 48 years of operation.

President Richard Anderson said in a statement that Amtrak is experiencing record growth and is seeking to develop new markets that now have limited or no intercity-rail service.

Anderson’s statement spoke of a changing landscape in America.

The news release also said that Amtrak is investing billions of dollars into modernizing its aging infrastructure, fleet and facilities as much of its rolling stock and locomotives near the end of their useful lives.

Some infrastructure that Amtrak uses dates to the early 1900s.

11 Senators Want National Network Commitment

April 21, 2019

Eleven U.S. Senators have asked Amtrak to affirm its support of a national rail network.

The letter was sent to Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson by the six senators from Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico.

Also signing the letter were senators from Nevada, West Virginia, Arizona, Montana and Illinois.

The letter asked Anderson to respond by April 29 and to make a “firm commitment that Amtrak will abide by its statutory purpose — maintaining a truly national network for our rail system.”

The senators said that Amtrak was created to create a “web of essential connections that bind our country together.”

Citing recent congressional testimony, fleet and service planning documents, and language in Amtrak’s 2020 budget request, the senators cited seven areas of concern.

Those include questionable cost allocation accounting; plans to either truncate long-distance routes or attempt to have states pay for them; discussions Amtrak has had with host railroads or states about adding short-distance frequencies; a  challenge to Amtrak’s claim that demand for its interstate services is declining, citing figures indicating an increase “in spite of worsening on-time performance, capacity reductions and other changes to service levels; the effect of removing ticket agents at stations, and a question why “Amtrak calculates ridership boardings on weekly totals on routes that do not run daily.”; policies that would help Amtrak improve host railroad on-time performance; and a request for a timeline to put 25 new Viewliner II sleeping cars into service, noting that sleeping cars provide approximately 40-50 percent of the revenue on many long distance trains.

Minn. Gov., Anderson Meet About Duluth Service

March 29, 2019

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz met recently with Amtrak President Richard Anderson to discuss the proposed Northern Lights Express project, but no agreement was apparently reached.

The governor said in a Facebook post that Anderson said the national passenger carrier is ready to work with the state on the project, which would reinstate intercity rail passenger service between the Twin Cities and Duluth, Minnesota.

Another Amtrak official expressed the carrier’s interest in the project during a visit to the state earlier this month.

The Northern Lights Express is projected to operate between a station near Target Field in Minneapolis and make intermediate stops in Minnesota at Coon Rapids, Cambridge and Hinckley, and in Wisconsin in Superior.

The 150-mile line would use BNSF rails. Amtrak’s North Star served that route through April 7, 1985, when Minnesota ceased funding the train.

Congress Wants More Info on Chicago Disruption

March 15, 2019

Some members of Congress aren’t satisfied with Amtrak’s explanation that human error caused a service breakdown at Chicago Union Station that delayed Amtrak and Metra trains.

U.S. Rep. Dan Lipkinski, the chairman of the House subcommittee on railroads, has asked Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson to more thoroughly explain what caused the service disruption that affected 100,000 passengers.

Anderson has been given until March 29 to answer nine questions that Lipinski’s committee has posed.

The service disruption occurred on Feb. 28 and lasted for more than 12 hours.

In a public statement issued by Anderson, Amtrak took responsibility for the computer problems that triggered the service disruptions.

The statement said that the human error occurred as the carrier was conducting a software upgrade on a computer server.

However, Amtrak’s statement did not explain why that upgrade was being conducted during rush hour. The computer problems affected the dispatch control system, which in turn lines signals and switches.

One of the questions asked by the congressional committee is why the upgrade was being conducted at the time of the day that it was.

Some computer experts have said such upgrades are typically conducted during nighttime hours or on weekends to minimize a system crash should it occur.

Subsequent news reports indicated that the “human error” was a worker falling or colliding with the circuit system.

The letter to Anderson also seeks to determine if Amtrak has considered reimbursing those who paid for alternate means of traveling home, including by ride-sharing services Uber and Lyft.

Some news reports claim that some Metra commuters paid as much as $125 as a result of “surge pricing.”

Lipinski said he met with Anderson recently in Washington and was provided some “initial details” about the service disruption.

“I appreciated the candor CEO Anderson displayed when he met with me and accepted responsibility for the failures that led to the chaos at Union Station,” Lipinski said in a statement accompanying the letter.

“However, we need more than contrition and an acknowledgment of what went wrong in order to make sure this doesn’t happen again and to compensate passengers. I’ve asked him to conduct an in-depth review of Amtrak’s policies and procedures and present a corrective action plan to help build back the public’s confidence in our rail system and give commuters the reliable service they should expect.”

Anderson has said that Amtrak would take steps to improve operations in Chicago, including the naming of a “a veteran Amtrak executive to make sure we deliver the performance our stakeholders expect of us.”

During the service disruption, Amtrak dispatchers had to manually operate signals and switches, and only allowed one train at a time to move.

Ex-Amtrak President Joseph Boardman Dies

March 9, 2019

Former Amtrak President Joseph H. Boardman, 70, died this week after suffering a stroke.

Mr. Boardman

Mr. Boardman, whose career also included serving as New York State Transportation Commissioner and Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration, was Amtrak’s second-longest-serving president.

He died on March 7 after being stricken two days earlier while vacationing in Florida with his family.

As head of the FRA, Mr. Boardman served on the Amtrak board of directors as the representative of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

He was named Amtrak’s ninth president in November 2008 after Alexander Kummant stepped down.

At the time, the Amtrak board appointed Mr. Boardman to a one-year term.

In January 2010 the board announced it had extended Mr. Boardman’s term indefinitely.

Mr. Boardman retired as Amtrak president in September 2016 and was succeeded by former Norfolk Southern CEO Charles “Wick” Moorman.

His eight years as Amtrak president trails only the late W. Graham Claytor in tenure as head of Amtrak. Mr. Claytor served as Amtrak president between 1982 and 1993.

During Mr. Boardman’s tenure, Amtrak purchased 28 Alstom Avelia Liberty trainsets for use in the Northeast Corridor on Acela Express service and during his watch the passenger carrier initiated the acquisition of 200 Viewliners cars from CAF-USA.

The latter were plagued with production and delivery delays and the full order has yet to be completed.

Mr. Boardman was described by those who worked with him and knew him at Amtrak as a very hands-on manager.

He often rode Amtrak trains in a business car to see the network for himself.

A retired Amtrak car attendant told Trains magazine that Mr. Boardman would encourage on-board employees to come to his car Beech Grove during those inspection trips and say what was on their mind.

In the past year Mr. Boardman had become sharply critical of current Amtrak management, particularly after it indicated that it wanted to replace the Chicago-Los Angeles Southwest Chief between Dodge City, Kansas, and Albuquerque with bus service.

Mr. Boardman was particularly passionate about the Chief because he had overseen as president of Amtrak an effort to win federal, state and local grant money to be used to rehabilitate the tracks that the Chief uses on a lightly-used BNSF line over Raton Pass.

In a statement released by Amtrak, board Chairman Anthony Coscia and President Richard Anderson said, “we are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Joe Boardman.”

The statement said that during his tenure as FRA administrator and Amtrak president Mr. Boardman had been a tireless advocate for passenger rail and the nation’s mobility.”

“During his eight years at the helm, Joe helped the company make significant progress in reducing our debt, improving our infrastructure and raising our cost recovery performance,” the statement said.

Mr. Boardman was a lifelong resident of New York state and was raised on a dairy farm in Oneida County.

In 1966 he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and served in Vietnam between 1968 and 1969.

After his discharge from the Air Force, he earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Agriculture Economics from Cornell University and a Master of Science Degree in Management Science from Binghamton University.

He was appointed by President George W. Bush as FRA administrator, a position he held between 2005 and 2008.

Other positions that he held included serving as chairman of the Executive Committee of the Transportation Research Board, and serving as chairman of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials’ Standing Committee on Rail Transportation.

He was a commissioner of the New York State Department of Transportation for eight years.

91 Congressmen Want Answers From Anderson

March 4, 2019

Ninety-one members of Congress have a few bones to pick with Amtrak.

The representatives recently sent a letter to Amtrak President Richard Anderson posing a series of questions about certain facets of Amtrak service, including changes made in the past year that have triggered protest.

The letter, which was created by House Transportation & Infrastructure Chair Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon) and House T&I Railroad Subcommittee Chair Dan Lipinski (D-Illinois) came in response to news reports that Amtrak will propose expanding corridor service in the Southeast and West at the expense of long-distance routes.

Among other things the letter also asks about such moves as removing full-service dining from the Lake Shore Limited and Capitol Limited last June, the closing of numerous ticket offices across the country, and changes to fees and policies pertaining to the carriage of privately-owned rail passenger cars.

The 11-page letter contains three pages of observations and questions with most of it devoted to the signatures of the 91 signers, which included 88 Democrats and three Republicans.

Other matters raised in the letter include changes made at reservation call centers and expected changes to maintenance facilities.

The letter cited a statutory responsibility that Amtrak has to provide a national intercity passenger rail network “that includes state-supported and long-distance routes in addition to the (Northeast Corridor).”

The legislators asked Anderson to respond by March 8.

Human Error Blamed for Chicago Service Issues

March 3, 2019

A reported “human error” that disrupted Amtrak and Metra service at Chicago Union Station on Thursday turned out to be a worker falling onto a circuit board that in turn turned off computers used to oversee train operations.

The computers in question operate signals at the station. The service interruption occurred for much of the day.

Amtrak President Richard Anderson issued a statement on Friday blaming human error for the service disruptions, but didn’t explain what that was.

The workers who fell on the circuit board wasn’t the only cause of the 12-hour problem.

Amtrak also had decided to conduct a server upgrade to its computers during peak hours of service rather than during the middle of the night when only a handful of trains would be operating.

In his statement, Anderson acknowledged that the passenger carrier failed to provide the service that its passengers and Metra riders expect.

“We own the system. We will fix this problem. More importantly, we are taking steps to improve our operations in Chicago, which include appointing a veteran Amtrak executive to make sure we deliver the performance our stakeholders expect of us,” Anderson said.

Metra service had returned to normal by Friday morning after signal operations were disrupted starting Thursday morning.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said workers had to shift from automated to manual control of signals and switches and that caused delays.

The signal problems began on Thursday at 8:35 a.m. and trains between Union Station and Western Avenue were halted about an hour later.

Although some delays were brief, other trains were delayed for almost three hour.

Metra shifted to a “load and go” operations plan for trains on its BNSF line between Chicago and Aurora, Illinois, its busiest route in Chicago.

Amtrak’s eastbound Lake Shore Limited did not depart Chicago until 2:28 a.m., nearly five hours late.

Amtrak Eyeing Major Revamp of Its Route Network

February 22, 2019

The big news concerning Amtrak this week was a report in the Wall Street Journal that Amtrak plans to revamp its route network to emphasize new corridors, primarily in the South and West.

The Journal quoted an unnamed Amtrak official as saying: “We are undertaking a major rethinking of the national network and how we offer service on the national network. That study and planning isn’t done yet, and we aren’t prepared to announce any plans or recommendations yet—those will come in our reauthorization proposal.”

The newspaper report said the route restructuring is being prompted in part by a need to replace or retire the aging Superliner fleet devoted to most long-distance trains.

Another factor is that Amtrak must be reauthorized by Congress later this year.

Amtrak officials have been hinting for at least a year at a change in the carrier’s business focus.

During a speech in California, Amtrak President Richard Anderson described the long-distance trains as experiential.

Anthony Coscia, the chairman of the Amtrak board of directors, told the Rail Passengers Association in a meeting last May that in the long term the overall shape of Amtrak’s national network is likely due to population shifts, demographic trends and economic growth.

Coscia expressed Amtrak’s desire to develop corridor routes with strong potential for growth in unserved or lightly served areas.

Writing on the Trains magazine website, columnist Fred Frailey said the implication of the report by the Wall Street Journal is that Amtrak wants to operate daylight service between large city pairs.

Frailey quoted at length the remarks of Amtrak’s Stephen Gardner, a senior executive vice president, at the Rail Trends meeting in New York City last November.

“We’re looking at a different America. They do not live half in the city and half in the country,” Gardner said. “Now the vast majority live in major metropolitan areas. And those metro areas are shifting. The Northeast will be a net loser.

“Where growth is happening is in the South, Mountain West and West. And guess who lives in those metro areas? It’s Millennials, by far.”

Gardner went on to say that this has resulted in a mismatch between population density, transportation demand and Amtrak’s current network.

Frailey speculated that what ultimately may occur is that some of Amtrak’s long-distance routes will be split into segments operating during the daytime.

He cited the example of the Chicago-New Orleans route, which might be broken into Chicago-Memphis and New Orleans-Memphis segments.