Amtrak CEO on new trains, Trump's promises on infrastructure

Amtrak is moving forward under new leadership and watching President-elect Donald Trump, who’s promising investment in America’s infrastructure.

1117-ctm-amtrackceo-1182103-640x360.jpg

Amtrak CEO Wick Moorman

CBS News

“I think what the [Trump] administration is talking about in terms of infrastructure investment is absolutely critical, not only for Amtrak but for our country,” Amtrak president and CEO Charles “Wick” Moorman said Thursday on “CBS This Morning.” Moorman took over as Amtrak’s leader in September after spending more than 40 years at Norfolk Southern, one of the nation’s biggest transportation companies.

Amtrak is on track to replace the Acela Express with new, high-speed trains starting around 2020.

“It’s going to be a great new product. It’s going to be a state-of-the-art technology,” Moorman said. “The train’s actually going to be bigger, so we’ll not have quite the crowding and the difficulty of getting people onto Acela, which is a popular product. We’re going to have more trainsets, so we’re going to have more high-speed frequencies.”

The railroad company, which received a $2.45 billion federal loan so they could invest in such advances, knows the challenges they face in providing faster trains for customers. Moorman said as infrastructure is upgraded, trains will become faster and faster.

“The limitation is the fact that the railroad was built basically in the 19th century, and curvature primarily is such that it doesn’t allow for high speed. Curvature is what limits speeds, so you’d have to go build a whole new route.”

As a rough example, he used the trip between New York and Washington, D.C. to describe how much it could cost to construct new routes.  

“I haven’t seen latest estimates, but it’s tens and tens of billions. You have to go buy the land, you have to engineer it, you have to go through an enormous planning process,” Moorman said. “It’s not that it couldn’t happen or shouldn’t happen. It’s just something that is a long way away.”

With recent rail accidents, including a New Jersey Transit commuter train that crashed into Hoboken station in September, questions have been raised about why some systems still aren’t using the potentially life-saving positive train control technology, which helps by automatically triggering the brakes in certain situations.

“Amtrak has positive train control installed on the entire corridor with the exception of I think a couple very small terminal areas,” Moorman said.

He said security is also a big concern for Amtrak, which has its own police force and cameras around train terminals.

He also asked viewers to “please pay full fare” when riding Amtrak.

“We need all the revenue we can get,” Moorman said.