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Kummant forced out as Amtrak CEO – UPDATE 2

Despite yammering in the railfan community, this is probably not good or bad news, except that changes in management are always disruptive. Don Phillips at Trains is reporting that the issue between the Board and the former CEO concerns a technical point of debt restructuring. One must think it is slightly more than that, but the general direction of the company is not part of what happened, or so it seems.

Here is the company line.

WASHINGTON – The National Railroad Passenger Corporation today announced the resignation of its President and CEO, Alex Kummant.

“On behalf of the entire Board, I’d like to thank Alex for his leadership over the past two years,” said Donna McLean, Chair of the Board. “During the past two years, the company experienced exciting economic times, strong ridership and revenue growth, solid profit and loss performance, and the advancement of the Amtrak brand overall. He also successfully oversaw the completion of labor agreements with all of the unions representing Amtrak’s employees. We are grateful to Alex for his contributions to the company. We wish him well in his future endeavors.”

Alex Kummant reflected that he was “proud of what the management team at Amtrak had accomplished over the last two plus years and that [he believed] Amtrak had a strong operational and financial base to get through the coming turbulent times.” He continued that he “would help in any way to make this a smooth transition.”

“I’d like to thank Alex for his commitment to Amtrak over the past two years,” said Hunter Biden, Vice Chair of the Board. “Our Board is committed to keeping Amtrak on an aggressive path of performance improvement. Current economic conditions highlight the need for us to continue finding ways to drive quality and customer service across the system. We are moving forward with the development of an aggressive long-term plan for the company, based on the recent legislation passed by Congress.”

After record ridership and revenue in FY08, a downturn in the economy and new legislative requirements present challenges as well as opportunities. In the coming years, Amtrak will need leadership to maximize its potential and utility to the traveling public, while increasing the efficiency of the whole operation. The Board is confident that this transition will be seamless, with William Crosbie, Amtrak’s Chief Operating Officer, as Acting President and CEO for an interim period.

UPDATE: Bloomberg expands on some of the political consequences.

Kummant’s departure will give President-elect Barack Obama an opportunity to put his stamp on the railroad. The Bush administration, which appointed Kummant, sought to cut federal subsidies and force Amtrak to operate more like a business.

Former Amtrak board member Michael Dukakis and some analysts have said Amtrak will benefit from the Obama presidency because it will be more supportive of passenger rail than the outgoing administration.

UPDATE 2: It has been noted in several sources that the Amtrak Board of Directors appoints the president and these are all Bush appointees. It is also reported that the Obama administration will get to appoint a member in 2011. Perhaps some better informed person can help me on this weekend day. Are there vacancies on the Board currently?

Also, to return to a previous theme, my journalistic sense tells me that there is something important happening behind the scenes (and it does not have anything whatever to do with restoring the Sunset east of New Orleans). There is a severe financial disagreement of some sort, in my opinion. I guess this puts me crosswise with Don Phillips, and Mr. Phillips is seldom wrong.


Filed under: Amtrak, Passenger Rail Politics, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy

Amtrak’s Northeast Ridership Falls as Business Travel Declines

Take the bad with the good. The hard economic times have hit just about everything. This Bloomberg report also notes the increase in non-corridor travel. It suggests a reasonable argument for a balanced national system. Students, families, and senior citizens (that is just about all of us, isn’t it?) still need reasonably priced reliable trains.

By Chris Dolmetsch

Nov. 12 (Bloomberg) — Ridership on Amtrak’s trains between Boston and Washington, including its high-speed Acela line, fell 5 percent in October from a year ago as business travel declined.

The drop came as the U.S. economy slumped and gasoline prices approached a two-year low. Regular gasoline at the pump fell 1.8 cents to a nationwide average of $2.202 a gallon, its lowest since February 2007, said AAA, the nation’s biggest motoring group, on its Web site today.

President-elect Barack Obama may inherit the worst U.S. recession in three decades, according to economists surveyed by Bloomberg News, as more than $918 billion in credit losses hinder global growth.

Filed under: Amtrak, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy, Regional USA Passenger Rail

News from across the pond

Big news for Eurostar.

Eurostar Celebrates ‘Huge’ Passenger Growth
Eurostar says it has seen a huge increase in the number of passengers during its first year of operations at St Pancras International station.

Passenger numbers are up by 100 per cent or more in many northern regions of England since the rail service made the move to its new London base.

The company suggests one reason for the trend is that people who live in the regions are now able to take advantage of easier connections for their journeys into mainland Europe.

“We’re delighted to see this growth, which is strong evidence that high-speed rail can provide a new alternative for short-haul journeys within the UK and for travel to mainland Europe,” says Eurostar chief executive Richard Brown.

During the first nine months of this year, Eurostar states it carried a total of seven million travellers – a 13.9 per cent increase on the same period in 2007.

Eurostar has just announced it is to combine its sales and marketing functions.

The company has appointed Emma Harris into the role of sales and marketing director (UK and international) with effect from November 17th.

Filed under: International High Speed Rail, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy

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November 2008