Richard Anderson, Delta Savior, Now Aims to Resurrect Amtrak as CEO

Richard Anderson, former Delta CEO, is now CEO of Amtrak

Last week, Anderson, 62, was named Amtrak’s next president and CEO, starting July 12. The current head of the railroad, Wick Moorman, will serve as co-CEO with Anderson through the end of the year, at which time Moorman will become an advisor to the company. Moorman joined Amtrak in September 2016 as a transitional CEO tasked with improving the company’s operations, streamlining the organizational structure and helping recruit his successor.

“Richard brings to Amtrak his experience running one of the largest global commercial air carriers,” Amtrak Chairman of the Board Tony Coscia said. “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 toward operational and financial excellence.”

Anderson, formerly head of Delta and earlier, Northwest, was named Aviation Week’s Person of the Year in 2015, and the year before, he was recognized as one of the World’s Best CEOs by Barron’s magazine. Anderson has become one of the most respected CEOs in the airline business, navigating once bankrupt Delta and Northwest through one of the “smoothest” airline mergers in the current era. Afterward, he helped turn Delta “into one of the most efficient, effective and profitable airlines in the world.”

Amtrak, a for-profit company that’s partly funded by the government, posted a $1.1 billion net loss in fiscal 2016, following a loss of $1.2 billion a year earlier. While President Donald Trump has proposed cutting $630 million in subsidies for Amtrak in his transportation budget, the railroad still has plans to invest about $2.5 billion in new trains and infrastructure upgrades for the next generation of Acela Express, its flagship service along the Northeast Corridor.

“Having Wick and Richard bring world-class CEO experience to Amtrak, I think, is going to help Gateway, going to make Amtrak a stronger company.”

Anderson also was likely chosen to be Amtrak’s CEO because of his existing relationships with key players on Capitol Hill, including members on the House and Senate transportation committees—which may help stave off Trump’s proposed cuts that could threaten the railroad’s initiatives.

At the top of that list is Amtrak’s Gateway project, a $24 billion plan for a New York City-area Hudson River tunnel and related improvements—considered among the biggest U.S. infrastructure projects, and one of the most crucial to improve rail traffic along the Northeast Corridor from Washington, D.C. to Boston.

“Having Wick and Richard bring world-class CEO experience to Amtrak, I think, is going to help Gateway, going to make Amtrak a stronger company,” Coscia said.

Anderson must also navigate “the summer of hell” for passengers, when Amtrak begins stepped-up maintenance at Penn Station, the busiest terminal in North America. After derailments in March and April, the railroad is working on rack and signal repairs, curtailing operations for Amtrak and its tenants, the Long Island Rail Road and New Jersey Transit commuter lines.

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Katie Kuehner-Hebert
Katie Kuehner-Hebert has more than two decades of experience writing about corporate, financial and industry-specific issues. She is based in Running Springs, Calif.

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