USA: Bill Flynn is to retire as CEO of Amtrak on January 17, with current President Stephen Gardner becoming President & CEO. Flynn will continue as a senior advisor for the remainder of the financial year.
‘With the Biden Administration and Congress just having made a transformational investment in inter-city passenger rail, this is the right time to transition the leadership of the company for the long term to help guide Amtrak’s promising future’, said board Chair Tony Coscia when the change was announced on December 15.
Marking its 50th birthday as the pandemic raged this year, the national passenger operator has succeeded in partially restoring ridership levels which by mid-December were ‘about 70% of pre-Covid levels’.
Announcing its preliminary results for the year to September, Amtrak said its customers had made 12∙2 million journeys, of which more than half were in the second half of the year. This represented a 42% increase over its goal for the year, the operator said, but was over 62% down on the pre-Covid year of 2019 when 32∙5 million trips were made on Amtrak trains.
Amtrak ‘advanced’ $2∙2bn in capital spending, including property acquisition relating to the trans-Hudson Gateway Programme in New York and signature of a contract with Siemens covering supply of up to 83 electro-diesel and diesel-battery hybrid vehicles to operate medium-distance inter-city routes.
In May it launched the Amtrak Corridor Vision which set out a 15-year programme, to be implemented with states, local communities, federal government and other stakeholders, to launch 39 new routes and enhance 25 existing routes that would attract another 20 million passengers a year. This could generate up to $8bn of annual economic benefit, Amtrak said.
Also during the year Amtrak launched a process before the Surface Transportation Board to require CSX and Norfolk Southern to permit the operation of two daily Amtrak services between New Orleans and Mobile with stops at Bay St Louis, Gulfport, Biloxi and Pascagoula. Noting that the route has ‘sufficient capacity to host these trains’, Amtrak said that up to $66m in federal and state sources would support the work needed for these services; this includes track improvements in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi and grade crossing upgrades.
At the end of March Amtrak signed a $944m agreement with Virginia to more than double the number of state-sponsored services during the next 10 years.
Other achievements during the year included restoring dining services on six western long-distance routes and launching a $28m three-year programme to refresh its double-deck Superliner and Viewliner I fleets.
‘Our 50th year as a company is certainly a milestone, and we launched several hallmark initiatives as we embark on a new era for passenger rail’, Coscia explained. He also drew attention to the Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act which he described as ‘an historic investment that will benefit customers and communities and prove that Amtrak is an important part of a larger solution to help America tackle the climate crisis, create economic opportunity and expand mobility’.