World News

Amtrak names new CEO to head money-losing passenger railroad

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Amtrak said Monday it had tapped Atlas Air’s chief executive to run the money-losing U.S. passenger railroad that has seen record traffic.

William J. Flynn will take over as president and chief executive on April 15, succeeding former Delta Air Lines chief executive Richard Anderson who has run Amtrak since July 2017.

Anderson will remain a senior adviser through the end of the year. Flynn, who has been with Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings <AAWW.O>, for 13 years, has also held senior roles with CSX Transportation, Sea-Land Services, Inc, and GeoLogistics Corp.

Amtrak said Monday it is on pace this year to achieve operational break-even for the first time in the company’s 49-year history eve as it invests billions in new high-speed Acela trains and other capital assets.

“Amtrak service is vital to millions of Americans across the nation and by improving the customer experience, driving safety, and strengthening our partnership with states and other stakeholders, we can do much more for the American people,” Flynn said in a statement.

This week Amtrak, following the practice of U.S. airlines, started limiting refunds and passengers’ ability to make changes to most lowest-price train tickets.

Passengers can no longer be able to make changes or cancel tickets 24 hours after purchase as they can now for the lowest-cost “Saver fares.” The company also imposed new restrictions on changing some higher priced tickets.

In November, Amtrak said it had set records for ridership, revenue and financial performance for the year ended Sept. 30, 2019, including 32.5 million customer trips, a year-over-year increase of 800,000 passengers.

Amtrak reported a loss of $29.8 million in its last fiscal year compared with a loss of $170.6 million in the prior fiscal year.

Last month, the White House proposed cutting U.S. funding for Amtrak by more than 50% over 2020 levels. Democrats who control the U.S. House of Representatives have said they will reject the proposal, which is similar to cuts that have been rebuffed in prior budgets proposed by President Donald Trump’s administration.

Amtrak still is trying to win funding to complete major repairs and a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River in the heavily traveled northeast U.S. corridor.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Nick Zieminski)