Amtrak's new CEO brings airline experience to the railroad

An airline executive will be Amtrak’s next president and CEO, the rail company announced Monday.

Richard Anderson, 62, will join Amtrak July 12 after 25 years in the aviation industry, most recently as executive chairman of Delta Air Lines’ board of directors.

The current Amtrak chief, Charles “Wick” Moorman, who came to the railroad company in September 2016 after a career in commercial rail, is staying on until the end of December as a co-CEO, he said in an interview Monday. In 2018, he expects to remain affiliated with Amtrak as an adviser.

“One thing he is not as familiar with is the railroad,” Moorman said. “I will continue to be involved as co-CEO until the end of the year and in some fashion, I think, beyond that.”

Moorman always intended to be a transitional CEO, he said, and he participated in the months-long search for a permanent replacement. Anderson’s management at Delta secured his reputation as a man who understood transportation businesses, and someone who could turn around an ailing company.

New Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson

Anderson, a former county prosecutor and native of Galveston, Texas, was Delta’s CEO from 2007 to 2016. He also worked as executive vice president at United Healthcare from 2004 to 2007 and CEO of Northwest Airlines from 2001 to 2004.

“What you get with a Richard Anderson is a corporate leader,” Moorman said. “He’s creative and thoughtful and will go find the answers to problems.”

Anderson was not available for interviews Monday, Amtrak staff said.

Moorman’s tenure has been dominated by Amtrak’s troubles in the New York City region. Penn Station, which is run by the rail company, is in desperate need of an overhaul. The Gateway Project, which would build a new tunnel under the Hudson River, has turned into a race against time as the current tunnel, which was damaged in Hurricane Sandy, will soon become unusable. About 700,000 people travel on some portion of the Northeast Corridor, which passes through Philadelphia, each workday. Throughout the route, infrastructure is aging.

Amtrak spends about $300 million a year keeping the Northeast Corridor in good repair, but the need is between $700 million and $900 million. Amtrak operates at a loss, but in 2015, it benefited from a $10 billion, five-year federal allocation for passenger rail and infrastructure spending. It remains an open question how much the rail service would benefit from a proposed trillion-dollar federal infrastructure bill. President Trump’s budget has proposed cutting federal funding to all long-distance Amtrak routes except the Northeast Corridor.

Amtrak carries more than 30 million Amtrak passengers a year on 300 daily trains. The CEO is selected by the company’s 10 board of directors, nine of whom are appointed by the president.