Amtrak names new CEO

A photograph of two images. To the left is a train, and to the right is a man.

Amtrak has tapped former freight executive William J. Flynn as its next CEO and president, the company announced on March 2.

Flynn, whose first day at Amtrak will be on April 15, was most recently CEO at Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings, a company serving the global air freight, military charter and passenger air markets. Flynn succeeds Richard Anderson, who has served as CEO of Amtrak since July 2017. Anderson will stay on at Amtrak through the end of 2020 as a senior advisor to Flynn.

Prior to his 13 years at Atlas Air, Flynn served in numerous leadership positions at freight transportation companies, including CEO of freight forwarder and logistics provider GeoLogistics and senior vice president of strategic planning at eastern U.S. railroad CSX. He also served in various senior management positions at Sea-Land Service, a former CSX subsidiary that’s now part of Maersk as a global container shipping firm. 

“I congratulate the Board on selecting Bill to lead Amtrak into its 50th year and beyond,” said Anderson. “Bill brings deep expertise across all aspects of transportation and a true passion for the customer. As the company re-fleets our equipment, expands our services and advances key infrastructure projects like the Gateway Program, it will require the steady leadership and relentless drive for improvement that I know Bill can provide.”

Flynn’s appointment comes as the company vies for continued federal support and amid Congressional calls to improve on-time performance. Last month, President Donald Trump proposed to slash Amtrak’s funding from $1.3 billion in fiscal year 2020 to a tentative $610 million in 2021. Congress will debate Amtrak’s proposed funding level, which Trump set in his budget for the U.S. Department of Transportation, over the next several months.

Congressional leaders, including Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois), want Amtrak to improve its on-time performance and service reliability. Amtrak shares portions of its network with the Class I railroads, and the two sides have been sparring for years over who should be responsible for setting on-time performance metrics. 

Amtrak’s position is that the passenger rail service set new records in ridership, revenue and earnings in 2019, and it is “on pace to achieve operational break-even for the first time in the company’s 49-year history.” The company says it’s investing billions in capital assets and is undertaking its largest fleet renewal in company history. It plans to have new high-speed Acela trains running on the Northeast Corridor next year. 

“Amtrak’s future is incredibly bright and I’m excited to join the team,” Flynn said. “Amtrak service is vital to millions of Americans across the nation and by improving the customer experience, driving safety, and strengthening our partnership with states and other stakeholders, we can do much more for the American people.”