Richard Spence apparently was ousted yesterday as president of Consolidated Rail Corp., the giant Northeast railroad established two years ago to rehabilitate bankrupt rail services with more than $2 billion of government aid.
Conrail said only that its board of directors met yesterday and announced the immediate departure of SPence, who was the company's No. 2 executive. Spence was not available for comment, and Conrail said a "search for a successor is being initiated."
Spence, 53, joined Conrail on Oct. 15, 1975, when it was being formed. He had a reputation as one of the top operating executives in the U.S. rail industry. Under Chairman and Chief Executive Edward Jordan, Spence was put in charge of day-to-day rail service for the new firm after working for the Southern Pacific since 1946 - most recently as vice president for operations.
Although most shippers and rail industry leaders have said that Conrail has improved on the service provided previously by the region's bankrupt firms, Conrail has not progressed toward economic self-sufficiency as projected by government planners, and it is seeking more federal aid.
Severe winter weather during the past two seasons and an inherited fleet of locomotives and freight cars in worse condition than government planners thought have combined to delay freight trains and pile up massive losses. In the first quarter of 1978, Conrail lost $216 million compared with $203 million a year earlier.
The Interstate Commerce Commission recently fined Conrail $2.3 million for not complying with orders to move freight cars rapidly. In addition, the government is investigating Conrail's mailing of 14,000 W-2 forms that were not deliverable.