Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg

Amtrak Hires Delta Ex-CEO Anderson to Oversee Passenger Railroad

  • Appointment comes as New York-area project is short funding
  • Anderson led airline to become industry’s most profitable

Richard Anderson, who stepped down last year as chief executive officer of Delta Air Lines Inc., has been hired to lead Amtrak as the national passenger railroad gets set for a “summer of hell” at New York’s Pennsylvania Station and plans to undertake one of the biggest infrastructure projects in the U.S.

Anderson on July 12 will take the spot alongside Wick Moorman, the current interim chief executive, until Moorman shifts to an advisory role in January, according to a statement issued by Amtrak. Anderson’s contract calls for three years of employment at zero salary, although he can receive a $500,000 bonus at the discretion of the railroad’s board of directors.

He joins Amtrak as funding promised by former President Barack Obama has become uncertain for the Gateway project, the railroad’s $24 billion plan for a New York City-area Hudson River tunnel and related improvements. The initiative, among the biggest U.S. infrastructure projects, is crucial to rail traffic on the Northeast Corridor, which runs from Washington, D.C., to Boston and is Amtrak’s busiest and most profitable line.

“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,” Anthony Coscia, chairman of Amtrak’s board, said by telephone. He said he couldn’t predict whether a federal source will be in place by the time Anderson operates solo. Moorman was appointed in August when Joe Boardman retired.

The railroad, after decades of funding cuts by Congress, also is overseeing stepped-up maintenance at Penn Station, the busiest terminal in North America, after derailments in March and April. Track and signal work in July and August will curtail operations for Amtrak and its tenants, the Long Island Rail Road and New Jersey Transit commuter lines. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has called the upcoming delays and cancellations a “summer of hell” for riders.

Northwest Merger

Anderson, 62, joined Atlanta-based Delta in 2007 after it emerged from bankruptcy, fending off a hostile takeover and pushing the carrier through a merger with Northwest Airlines Corp. He had been the Northwest CEO from 2001 to 2004.

He built Delta into the most profitable major U.S. carrier, focusing on reducing debt and improving on-time operations. He also was known for taking risks, including buying an oil refinery in Pennsylvania after jet-fuel prices soared. He stepped down as Delta CEO in May of last year and gave up the executive chairman’s job five months later.

A year ago Anderson was among dozens of business leaders to endorse Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and was a prominent donor to groups supporting her campaign. President Donald Trump has pledged a $1 trillion overhaul of roads and bridges, though his administration hasn’t disclosed spending details or breakdowns by transportation mode. Trump also has cut funding to the federal program on which Amtrak was relying for at least half the cost. New Jersey and New York had pledged to shoulder the other 50 percent.

— With assistance by Mary Schlangenstein

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