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Thursday, January 7, 2016

Amtrak CEO: ‘We Have A Safe Rail System’

Amtrak President and CEO Joseph Boardman testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 2, 2015, before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee oversight hearing of the Amtrak train derailment in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

Amtrak President and CEO Joseph Boardman testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 2, 2015, before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee oversight hearing of the Amtrak train derailment in Philadelphia. (Cliff Owen/AP)

Amtrak president and CEO Joseph Boardman says safety on the passenger rail system has improved since last May’s train derailment outside of Philadelphia that killed eight people. In this week’s View From The Top conversation, Boardman discusses improvements that have been made with Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson.

Interview Highlights

On his seven years as CEO being the second-longest term in Amtrak history

“It’s a tough job, I guess. For one thing, you’ve got a board of directors here right at Amtrak, but then you’ve got 535 additional directors over on the hill. There’s been a lot of turmoil at Amtrak in the past.

On being a Republican serving under President Obama

“I’ve always seen this as not a political job. Transportation is not political. People use it. It really is about the people – whether it’s highways or whether it’s airways or whether it’s railroads, it’s moving people, and you really don’t care what their political aspiration is.”

On Amtrak safety when using tracks owned by other organizations

“The safety exists whether it’s with Metro North or whether it’s with Long Island Railroad or Amtrak. And I think that’s important for people to understand.”

On infrastructure

“If you’re just looking at the Northeast Corridor – and if you’re really just thinking about the infrastructure – it’s getting to be 100 years old, whether it’s tunnels or whether it’s some of our bridges. We have a new funding bill. We’re seeing very positive opportunities to make real improvement and real investment for the future in the specific infrastructure of the Northeast Corridor.”

On the future of Amtrak

“What I see for the future of Amtrak is a much more robust national network system. That’s where Amtrak really started. It started back in 1971 because the freight railroads, which were just plain railroads at that time, by the way, they had freight traffic and passenger traffic. At that point in time, they weren’t making any money on passenger rail – we’re not making money on passenger rail today either. So that’s a common issue around the world. I could think of myself as the mayor of Amtrak. The mayor of a pretty big city every day. With 84 or 85,000 people in the city. And we’re moving that many people every day up and down the corridor. We have to do that and provide food, drinking water, sewage, police service. We are a very different railroad than anybody else you could really think of. And the communities around where we operate really depend on us. They see it as absolutely necessary across the country. That’s something that Amtrak is going to continue to do in the future.”

On advice for the next Amtrak CEO

“Amtrak is changing a bit, in terms of it’s development and business acumen. There has to be a CEO who understands that, who sees the kinds of investments that are going to be necessary for the future, the different business models. That CEO can’t forget that the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. And that is to run these trains safely with good customer service and keep the national network together. It doesn’t work any other way, it needs to be connected.”

Guest

  • Joseph Boardman, president and CEO of Amtrak since 2008.

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Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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