WSJ article about Richard Anderson

Discussion in 'Amtrak Rail Discussion' started by Bex, Jul 8, 2019.

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  1. Jul 8, 2019 #1

    Bex

    Bex

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    This was on the front page of the site yesterday; I was surprised to not see anything here, maybe that's because it is behind a paywall.

    https://www.wsj.com/articles/amtrak-has-lost-money-for-decades-a-former-airline-ceo-thinks-he-can-fix-it-11562385660

    Fair use headlines and first few paras:
    Amtrak Has Lost Money for Decades. A Former Airline CEO Thinks He Can Fix It.
    Onetime Delta CEO Richard Anderson has nearly eliminated the railroad’s operating losses, but some train fanatics are fuming about the changes

    By Ted Mann
    July 6, 2019 12:01 am ET
    The signs are aimed at the thousands of train passengers who rumble each day through North Philadelphia—two banners 14 feet high by 26 feet wide, mounted outside an old package-sorting facility built in the heyday of the Pennsylvania Railroad.

    “SAVE AMTRAK,” one says. The other: “FIRE ANDERSON.”

    No one has stirred up the people who feel deeply about the national passenger railroad—long-haul train fanatics, safety regulators, union employees, private railcar owners—quite like Richard Anderson, the former Delta Air Lines Inc. boss who took over as Amtrak’s chief executive in 2017.

    “He’s trying to run it like an airline,” said Jack Dinsdale, a railroad union official. He has tangled with Amtrak management over cost cuts that closed call centers and slashed staffing and hot-meal service on long-distance routes.
     
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  2. Jul 8, 2019 #2

    Willbridge

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    When the World Parkinson Conference was held in Portland, Oregon, some participants had to wait three days to get sleeping car space on the long-distance trains to home. I met some of them and they didn't seem like fanatics to me. My high school journalism teacher would not have dreamed of a paper like the WSJ slapping a label like that on such a diverse group.
     
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  3. Jul 8, 2019 #3

    Paul CHI

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    I was hoping that somebody knowledgeable from here would respond to WSJ about how Amtrak is cooking the books when comparing the NE corridor with the long distance network.
     
  4. Jul 8, 2019 #4

    jis

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    There is an entire well researched document produced by the RPA that has been sent to the WSJ. But well researched facts may not be what interests them so much, as is the case with many things in this world where Dunning-Kruger Effect is apparently the ruling principle.

    What is sad about all this is that there are several otherwise good ideas and moves that have gotten tangled with this hot mess, and are getting discredited by association or simply getting ignored. But as I have said elsewhere, if all this causes Congress to get off its perch of prevarication regarding Amtrak and provide a clear direction, that could be a good thing. Of course the danger is that said direction might be authored by this gang too - sort of like a Fox guarding the Hen house.
     
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2019
  5. Jul 8, 2019 #5

    rail_is_the_future

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    Consider the source?

    WSJ is often critical and wanting to elevate conflict and sticking points in Amtrak Ops.
    The referenced article is no deviation from that norm.

    Rhetoric and arguments blaming Anderson are not really valid.

    The problems he is attempting to mitigate have been reviewed and assessed by how many other CEOS?

    On an executive level, steering the both capital and operating schedules, forecasts, and costs across a mixed labor force all while having to earn union and congressional approval is no small feat.
     
  6. Jul 9, 2019 #6

    dlagrua

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    The problems that Amtrak faces stems from the fact that it was created to be a for profit corporation. Then Mr CEO Richard Anderson comes on the scene and tries to run and operate the service the same way cold modern day authoritarian capitalism works. IMO, Amtrak should be owned and run by the employees. They know the trains better than the desk jockeys in Washington. The employees would strive to make it better and grow the business, so it serves the American people better.
     
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  7. Jul 9, 2019 #7

    LookingGlassTie

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    I wouldn't consider myself a cheerleader for Anderson. That being said, I don't think that his mission or objective is to ruin or destroy Amtrak, as some have posited. Of course, some of his moves and decisions have given that impression. Like I've noted on other threads about him, it's all about optics.
     
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2019
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  8. Jul 9, 2019 #8

    NSC1109

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    I was able to read the article w/o paying on my laptop. As it turns out, he really likes his job. He joined a section gang on the NEC recently when two train came in from either direction. The crews pulled him under some equipment where they go for protection and he apparently really loved it. That came from Amtrak’s head of engineering. Anderson also loves a good fight. He did it at NWA and DAL, and now Amtrak.

    Something else I found out is that Gardner does have previous rail experience: he apparently used to be a conductor on short line railroads, but the article doesn’t name which one.

    A few things that I thought were notable:

    He wants to put tablets in cabs, much like what pilots have now. It would need to be an exception due the current FRA regs, though. I believe they want to use it as a “moving map”, likely as an additional safety reference with signals, switches, speed restrictions, etc, listed. Think of it as an ATCS Monitor on steroids.

    Then the article drones on about how SS and LD services lose money while the NEC is a pot of gold.
     
  9. Jul 9, 2019 #9

    bretton88

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    The tablet idea is an interesting one. On one hand fully qualified engineers should know where all those things (signals, etc) are on their route, so it might just be an unnecessary distraction. On the other hand it could be a good aide for less familiar engineers, especially if there's some way for it to display the condition of the signals ahead (with PTC being wireless, it is theoretically possible), current speed limits, and even temporary speed restrictions. Now off the NEC this would require close coordination with the freights, so most likely Amtrak would have to do proof of concept on the NEC first. Getting an FRA waiver to trial this would probably be the easiest part of all this, ironically.
     
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  10. Jul 9, 2019 #10

    dgvrengineer

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    I heard Gardner worked for BB(Buckingham Branch). I have not been able to verify though.
     
  11. Jul 10, 2019 #11

    Seaboard92

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    He worked for the Buckingham Branch. He’s supposedly a large Chesapeake & Ohio fan.
     
  12. Jul 10, 2019 #12

    Dakota 400

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    Maybe our view of Mr. Anderson need a revision based on recent news.

    Others are welcome to disagree with I following post, but it is my opinion based on my experiences.

    Mr. Anderson being the head of NWA was not something that I remembered. NWA provided excellent flights for me when I flew on them. The absorption of NWA into Delta went well from my perspective as a guest on previous NWA flights that took place at the time.

    Delta is an airline that has continued to improve its service while American and United try, but still continue to fall short for whatever reasons, and I have flown on both. I have a flight soon from MSP to YVR in First Class on Delta and received an e-mail from Delta offering the opportunity to select an entree for my lunch. I was pleasantly surprised and the two choices were appealing.

    If Mr. Anderson and Mr. Gardner have railroad experiences that have been positive, maybe it's time to take a hopeful view of what lies ahead for Amtrak.
     
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  13. Jul 10, 2019 #13

    NSC1109

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    Quick note on Delta/UA/AA:

    From my personal (and likely biased) experience with Delta as both a passenger and as an employee, I can say that I feel like we are light years ahead of the competition. Yes, we are more expensive. But we have nicer aircraft and amenities available, we still have IFE screens, and our OTP is still one of the best around. Our TechOps guys do amazing work as well.

    American is currently trying to put more seats on planes, giving pax less legroom (including first class) and removing IFE screens. United is trying to add more routes to their schedule. Both airlines think that doing so will help them compete with Delta. Unfortunately, one will drive customers away due to an uncomfortable experience and the other just raises costs.

    Locally, we have better OTP than either UA or AA because they both have a habit of cancelling due to weather. Part of it is unavoidable, given our location and the location of their hub (ORD) while we fly to MSP and DTW. But in the end, we fly when they can’t. I guess that’s why we have 70% of the market share and control 3/5 gates .

    https://viewfromthewing.boardingarea.com/2018/06/07/what-airlines-should-learn-from-delta/

    As for Anderson and Amtrak: I agree. I guarantee the man has this huge master plan somewhere of what he wants to do. I sincerely hope it doesn’t involve cutting the LD services because the system is supposed to be a national network. Congress better step up to the plate on that one. But I truly believe Anderson wants what is best for Amtrak. We just need to keep our eyes and ears open.
     
  14. Jul 10, 2019 #14

    Amtrakfflyer

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    Anderson’s actions speak louder than his few words. He’s still the wrong person for the job of enhancing a cohesive national route network.

    His compensation package should also be a red flag. Zero salary and bonuses based off what appears to be effectively cutting Amtrak to the bone. His recent statements saying Amtrak will soon require no subsidy insinuate no national network as well.

    Typical private sector CEO just looking 12-18 months in advance with no regard to the long term future of the company.

    I hope I’m wrong but seeing his deceitful SWC proposals along with countless cutbacks and downgrades to the LDTs it’s not looking good. He hasn’t done anything at all positive for the network trains. As someone said recently all he had to do to prevent the contemporary dining fiasco was serve Acela Express first class meals on the trains in question. It’s not like the V2 diners aren’t or can’t be equipped for it. It’s been how long? A year now.

    I also think Anderson is learning to play Congress. By saying the Coast Starlight, CA Zephyr and Builder are safe those Senators can claim victory and possibly not be a thorn in his side. Anderson has been deceitful to Congress in the past. He didn’t say he’d keep them daily or even tri weekly. In his mind they could be coach only ala Grayhound basic transportation. His past actions speak louder than his words.
     
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2019
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  15. Jul 10, 2019 #15

    jis

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    To be pedantic he did not say “no subsidy” he said "operationally self supporting", or something like that. That excludes everything Capital and even a large swath of SOGR projects, and possibly some aspects of central functions, the costs of which do not go away when a few trains are curtailed or cancelled.

    Notice that he has not complained about too much money being appropriated for 2020.
     
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2019
  16. Jul 10, 2019 #16

    Amtrakfflyer

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    Touché on that. I still don’t trust his motives.
     
  17. Jul 10, 2019 #17

    frequentflyer

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    Ones' view of Anderson depends on if want Amtrak to operate and look as it has for the past 40 years, or one is willing to blow it up and start over, since in their view the last 40 years have not worked.
     
  18. Jul 10, 2019 #18

    tricia

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    I think your either/or is mistaken. I'm pretty sure I'm not the only person who'd rather see Amtrak build on the experience of the past 40 years, to expand and deepen the national network.
     
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  19. Jul 10, 2019 #19

    PeeweeTM

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    I don't know what PTC shows, but ETCS shows enough. So I that I don't see, what a tablet would add.
    If PTC doesn't show enough, fix PTC? IMG-20190710-WA0002~2.jpeg
     
  20. Jul 10, 2019 #20

    jis

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    Anderson knows that the Congress people know way less than him (and many on this board) about what PTC is and what it isn't. He also knows that almost everyone has used an iPad or equivalent and used a moving map on it. So it is easy to explain to the ignoramuses in Congress how such a thing could be useful. I suspect that even airline pilots who have iPads or MS Surfaces seldom use moving maps on them. They are used for holding the info that used to be carried around in a small rollaboard sized bag in the form of paper documents, for reference. For navigation they use aircraft instrumentation mostly. But why share such details with the ignoramuses and spoil a good story?

    Actually, PTC shows enough too, though there always is room for improvement. Also what is shown on I-ETMS VDUs is different from what is shown in an ACSES VDU, which is again different from E-ATC one on a railroad like the FECR/Brightline. Given the vast variance in signal aspects with different semantics associated with each aspect, found on different railroads, there could not be a single standard display of signals in any VDU anyway.

    I have observed that anyone who uses the phrase "PTC Technology" usually is less conversant with what PTC is than one who just uses the term "PTC". PTC is a set of specifications stating requirements. It is realized using multiple different technologies in different places, that are then certified as PTC Compliant by the FRA. This is also similar to ETCS, which is a standards specification, realized using different technologies.
     
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  21. Jul 10, 2019 #21

    NSC1109

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    There are a lot of comments I see online about how you can’t travel directly from Chicago to Florida. That would be an interesting addition, plus could potentially bring back additional service along the Cardinal/HS route if they went that way.
     
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  22. Jul 10, 2019 #22

    Dakota 400

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    The return of a Chicago to Florida train would be a great addition. I think it was PRR in conjunction with Southern Railways or L&N had a train called the Southwind. With the number of "snow birds" in my part of the country, such a route could be a winner.
     
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  23. Jul 10, 2019 #23

    NSC1109

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    I was also looking at the potential for a second train down that way that terminated in Atlanta called the Peachtree. I’m not sure if it would be practical to do both an FL and an ATL train, though.
     
  24. Jul 10, 2019 #24

    me_little_me

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    Has he ever taken a long distance train? That's what he's trying to cut in the way of service - baggage, food, etc. What about the rest of his cronies? They ever take an overnight trip INGOGNITO so they really experience the service? I doubt it. The conductor would probably throw them off the train because they'd complain so much.
     
  25. Jul 10, 2019 #25

    Amtrakfflyer

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    Its going to vary airline by airline. I find the iPad moving map helpful on taxiways. It’s not even a true moving map, you just get a blip where your plane is on the chart you’ve chosen.
     

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