Amtrak CEO says infrastructure is first priority on CBS 'This Morning'

RELATED TOPICS: AMTRAK | INFRASTRUCTURE
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NEW YORK — Although his answers followed typical questions asking why U.S. trains don’t go as fast as their European and Asian counterparts and graphics showing how much money Amtrak “loses” every year, Amtrak current Co-Chief Executive Officer Richard Anderson revealed some clues about where he sees company priorities in his first national interview.

Appearing Tuesday on CBS This Morning, the former Delta Airlines president stated unequivocally that the distance between Amtrak coach seats would not be reduced, as some observers speculated after a Washington Press Club quip by Co-CEO Wick Moorman earlier this summer.

“One of our great advantages,” Anderson told interviewer Gayle King, “is that there are no middle seats. Our coach on Amtrak is much, much better than first class on airlines.”

“So you’re not going to change the spacing,” she asked?

“No,” he responded.

Anderson did explain that with 28 new high-speed trainsets under construction that will increase capacity 40 percent, Amtrak would be introducing half-hourly Acela Express frequencies between New York and Washington, as well as hourly New York to Boston service.

However, he made no mention of any other long-distance rolling stock investments, only that some refurbishment of existing equipment would be taking place.

After stressing that infrastructure investment is “the first imperative,” Anderson said the second is, “we’ve got to clean up our trains, run our trains on time, fix the interiors of our trains, and grow our services in the regions that provide the highest level of service to the communities around the country.”

“If we could get our train speeds up and operate more densely-populated urban corridors, it would be a great service to the traveling public in America,” he said.

Asked by Charlie Rose about the prospect of privatization, Anderson said, “You could privatize the profitable pieces, but that wouldn’t make any sense.

“Look, this is basic infrastructure. I think the subsidy last year for highways was about $45 billion and aviation was about $16 billion. When you think about what we do, and what is sort of fundamental to public policy is to fund infrastructure.”

The entire interview, which leads with two 1985-vintage TV commercials, is available online.

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