A veteran railroad executive who formerly headed Norfolk Southern Corp. has been named the next CEO of Amtrak.
Charles W. “Wick” Moorman will take over on Sept. 1, succeeding current CEO Joe Boardman, who announced his intention to retire from the national passenger railroad last fall.
“At Norfolk Southern, our team fostered change by placing a solid emphasis on performance across all aspects of our business which helped develop a stronger safety and service culture throughout the company,” said Moorman, who served as NS CEO until mid-2014 and stepped down as executive chairman of the NS board of directors at the end of last year.
“I look forward to advancing those same goals at Amtrak and helping to build a plan for future growth,” Moorman added.
The only nationwide intercity rail passenger carrier, Amtrak carries nearly 31 million passengers each year, including more than 1.4 million over its Keystone Corridor, which links Philadelphia with Pittsburgh by way of Harrisburg and the midstate.
According to statistics cited earlier this year by U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, Amtrak employs more than 2,600 people in Pennsylvania alone, and spends more than $200 million each year on procurement contracts.
Amtrak’s overall ridership has been growing in recent years, despite a slight dip in 2015, with 508,685 people using the system’s Harrisburg station last year, up from 498,995 in 2014.
Advocates also have been calling for increased service over the line between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh, which offers trip each way per day.
‘Experience and vision’
A native of Hattiesburg, Miss., Moorman’s 40 years with what has become NS saw him rise from management trainee to CEO and chairman of the NS Board of Directors. That railroad also has a substantial footprint in greater Harrisburg.
“We are very pleased that someone with Wick’s experience and vision will lead Amtrak during this critical period as the company charts a course for future growth and improvement,” Amtrak board Chairman Anthony Coscia said.
“Under CEO Joe Boardman, and with the support of the Administration and Congress, Amtrak has achieved record levels of performance and investment,” Coscia added in the railroad’s official statement, saying the board expects Moorman will help modernize the railroad’s operations, further enhancing safety and customer service.
According to the Wall Street Journal, however, Coscia also referred to Moorman as a a “transitional’ leader, but did not elaborate.
He will take over at a time of great promise for the railroad, but also amid significant challenges, including two fatal incidents in Pennsylvania.
A May 12, 2015 Amtrak crash in Philadelphia left eight people dead and more than 200 injured after a speeding passenger train left the rails. In April of this year, a crash in Chester killed two track workers and left 30 passengers injured. Both incidents put the railroad’s safety and operational practices under intense scrutiny.
One of Casey’s key priorities is wider installation of automatic braking technology known as positive train control (PTC), across the entire Amtrak system. The National Transportation Safety Board has said PTC would have made a difference in the 2015 wreck, in which Amtrak Northeast Regional Train 188, was traveling at more than 100 mph when it derailed.
But the system also is under growing Congressional pressure to rely less on public subsidies, even as Casey, together with President Barack Obama, are among those calling for more money to be spent on infrastructure and safety upgrades. Opponents of increases spending argue that as the railroad carries more passengers, it should be taking less money from the taxpayers.
“Wick’s deep operational background and track record of building teams and driving innovation is exactly what we need to provide unparalleled service to the more than 500 communities we serve,” Amtrak board Vice Chairman Jeffrey Moreland said.
“We are confident that, working together with the Board, Wick can formulate a strong plan to take Amtrak to the next level and assemble the management team and expertise to carry it forward.”