Virginia Railway Express officials announced the appointment Tuesday of a senior member of its administration to serve as the interim chief executive while the VRE board searches for a new CEO.

Passengers board a Virginia Railway Express (VRE) during the evening rush hour at the L'Enfant Plaza stop. (Gerald Martineau/The Washington Post)

Zehner announced in February that he planned to retire by the end of June. Officials say his tenure brought more reliable service to passengers — the rail line had been plagued in past years by service breakdowns and delays. VRE has also, officials say, seen the benefits of new equipment and better relationships with VRE’s host rail lines — CSX, Norfolk Southern and Amtrak.

Zehner also moved to replace Amtrak, which had been the primary contractor responsible for VRE’s day-to-day operations, with Keolis Rail Services America, a subsidiary of the French railway company SNCF.

“ My pledge is to bring to this job the unwavering commitment to excellence in keeping with the VRE tradition,” Dalton said, according to a news release.

VRE is looking for opportunities to expand in western Prince William and into other parts of Stafford County, and Dalton will continue pressing forward with those goals, the news release said.

Prince William Supervisor W.S. Covington III (R-Brentsville), who is chairman of VRE’s Operations Board, said in an interview that the board has interviewed four candidates so far and has plans to bring in more over the coming months.

Covington said he hopes to have a permanent CEO in place by September.

“It’s a process and we want to make sure we get it right,” he said.