CSX’s Michael Ward: I’ll be around three more years

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CSX Chairman Michael J. Ward
CSX Chairman Michael J. Ward
CSX Transportation
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — CSX Chairman and CEO Michael Ward says he will be on the job three more years.

 In a wide-ranging exclusive interview with Trains Editor Jim Wrinn on Friday, Ward said the CSX board of directors asked him to stay on three more years.

“I plan to work to 68,” said Ward, 65, who took the top job at the eastern carrier in 2003 and has weathered huge surges in traffic that strained capacity, a hostile takeover attempt, and now the rapid decline in coal traffic that has sent shock waves through the industry.

Ward says coal traffic has gone from 1 in 3 carloads to 1 in 6 carloads at CSX, a carrier whose primary components include the coal-based franchises of the Baltimore & Ohio, Chesapeake & Ohio, and Louisville & Nashville. In response to lower coal volumes, the company has taken drastic steps to adjust its network, including closing significant portions of the former Clinchfield and L&N as well as C&O coal branches in West Virginia. The railroad also installed a long merchandise train strategy and laid off employees, most recently announcing additional mechanical department cuts on Friday.

CSX’s succession plans called for Oscar Munoz to replace Ward in the top job, but in 2015 Munoz unexpectedly left to run United Airlines. Soon after taking that job, Munoz suffered a serious heart attack and has been recuperating after a heart transplant. With Ward at the throttle through 2019, the railroad has time to develop the talent pool for its top leadership during a period of significant upheaval.

Trains will publish a full Q&A with Ward in which he talks more about transitioning CSX’s franchise away from coal to intermodal and merchandise, positive train control, railroad mergers, and other issues. That interview will appear in the May issue of Trains, available in early April.
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