Amtrak has named Richard Anderson, the former chief executive of Delta and Northwest airlines, as its new president and CEO.
The announcement comes less than a year into the tenure Charles W. “Wick” Moorman, who took over as the passenger railroad’s chief executive in September. In a recent meeting with The Washington Post’s editorial board, Moorman had indicated that his role was to serve as a “transitional CEO,” working to reorganize and streamline Amtrak’s operations before turning it over to new leadership.
In an interview, Moorman said that being able to attract a leader of Anderson’s caliber signals that “Amtrak has a great future ahead of it.”
Anderson will begin the job on July 12 — just a few days after Amtrak launches an ambitious rebuilding program at New York’s Pennsylvania Station, which is already threatening to upend the commutes for thousands of New York City commuters. Amtrak already had announced service reductions along the Northeast Corridor as a result of the rebuilding program.
As part of the transition, Anderson and Moorman will serve as co-CEOs through Dec. 31, officials said. Moorman will then remain with Amtrak as an adviser to the company. That arrangement is designed to help Anderson make the transition from airlines to passenger rail. Before taking Amtrak’s top job, Moorman was the longtime head of Norfolk Southern Railway.
“Richard brings to Amtrak his experience running one of the largest global commercial air carriers. The board believes he is the right leader at the right time to drive the quality of customer service that our passengers, partners and stakeholders expect and deserve while continuing our path toward operational and financial excellence,” Amtrak board Chairman Tony Cosia said in a news release announcing Anderson’s appointment. “The board also appreciates all that Wick continues to do to improve Amtrak’s safety culture and strengthen our operating performance, including the important renewal work at New York Penn Station.”
Given his previous jobs at Delta and Northwest, Anderson brings with him existing relationships with key players on Capitol Hill, including members on the House and Senate transportation committees. That may help as Amtrak tries to stave off proposed cuts to long-distance rail service and fights to secure funding for ambitious rebuilding programs such as Project Gateway.
Anderson, 62, does not have railroad experience, but he does have decades of experience in the airline industry. He served most recently as executive chairman of the Delta Air Lines board of directors after serving as the airline’s CEO from 2007 to 2016.
He also was executive vice president at United Healthcare from 2004 to 2007, and CEO of Northwest Airlines from 2001 to 2004, which later merged with Delta. Anderson began his airline career in the legal division of Continental Airlines. Before that, he was a county prosecutor.
“It is an honor to join Amtrak at a time when passenger rail service is growing in importance in America. I look forward to working alongside Amtrak’s dedicated employees to continue the improvements begun by Wick,” Anderson said in a statement. “Amtrak is a great company today, and I’m excited about using my experience and working with the board to make it even better. I’m passionate about building strong businesses that create the best travel experience possible for customers.”
Moorman called Anderson a “best-in-class industry leader.”
While the idea of hiring an airline executive to focus on customer service may raise some eyebrows given that industry’s recent troubles, Moorman said that Anderson is a leader who understands the importance of customer service.
“I know his focus is on trying to provide a good customer experience for everyone,” Moorman said.
Anderson received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Houston at Clear Lake City and a law degree from South Texas College of Law. He is a native of Galveston, Tex., where his father worked for the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway.