Amtrak’s Boardman: “In the final estimate, we are one industry”

October 22, 2013

Washington, D.C. (Railway Age) — Selected quotes from Amtrak President and CEO Joe Boardman’s keynote address at Railway Age’s 20th Annual Passenger Trains on Freight Railroads Conference, October 15, 2013:

There is a misperception that there are two kinds of railroad: a private one that hauls freight, and a public one that carries people. The reality is that our industry is a mixed collection of carriers, freight and passenger railroads, bound by agreements, arrangements, rules, and procedures, and by culture — largely an internal culture, but also by the constantly changing business and political culture in which we operate. It is our habits, beliefs, attitudes, and practices…

Amtrak just broke its annual ridership record again… The freight railroads have found the same ability, nearly doubling their operating revenue over the course of the past decade. It is a remarkable change to be thinking and talking about capacity growth for both passenger and freight…

What will the next 40 or 50 years bring? Today, we’re always hearing about the “next big thing.” Famous corporations and institutions are melting away for various reasons, but a large number did not embrace the humility it takes to sustain themselves: collaboration, collegiality, and continuity. They perhaps did not adapt to new technologies or management methods, or they did not anticipate such huge generational attitudes changing the way they wanted to work…

Yes, the world is changing, and we must adapt our industry’s culture to the way we work now. This isn’t an Amtrak challenge or a freight railroad challenge…

Amtrak relieved the freight carriers of a portion of their common carrier obligation, but we are also the most publicly visible component of their obligation to serve the public. That too is an open question for the industry. Will there be any future obligation on the freight railroads to renew passenger service if Congress decided to end its national contract with Amtrak?

Boardman’s conclusions are in the full text of his address, at Railway Age, October 22, 2013.

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