American Railroads

News each weekday of American railroads. Our focus is on freight rail, but Amtrak and commuter rail are also essential ingredients. Nothing published on holidays.

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Location: Middleburg (Jacksonville), Florida, United States

Published in Trains magazine, Railfan & Railroad, Passenger Train Journal

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Ernesto fades, John gains

By Leo King
Editor

By 5:00 p.m. Wednesday, tropical depression Ernesto was producing heavy rains over central Florida.
The tropical storm warning had been extended to Cape Lookout, N.C., and a tropical storm warning was in effect from Sebastian Inlet, Fla., to Cape Lookout.
The depression was moving toward the north near 14 mph and a gradual turn to the north-northeast is expected today. Maximum sustained winds are near 35 mph with higher gusts, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) reported from Miami.
The NHC warned Ernesto has the potential to regain tropical storm strength on Thursday over the Atlantic.
Florida railroads should soon return to normal operations. It isn’t clear yet how railroads will be affected in the Carolinas and northward.
South and west of Mexico, Category 4 hurricane John was rearing its ugly head and potentially approaching Southern California.
No southwestern railroads have published service cut plans yet, but all are keeping a wary eye out. No word from Kansas City Southern if operations have been affected in Mexico.
At 5:00 p.m. EDT John continued to move parallel but close to the southwest coast of Mexico. The government of Mexico issued a hurricane watch for the southern Baja Peninsula from La Paz southward on the east coast and from Santa Fe southward on the west coast, including Cabo San Lucas. A hurricane warning remains in effect from Lazaro Cardenas westward to Cabo Corrientes.
A hurricane watch remains in effect from Tecpan de Galeana to Lazaro Cardenas...and for the Islas Marias.
A hurricane watch means that hurricane conditions are possible within the watch area, generally within 36 hours.
At 5:00 p.m. the hurricane center was located near latitude 17.4 north and longitude 103.3 west.
It is moving toward the northwest near 14 mph and this motion is expected to continue for the next 24 hours. On this track the center would remain just offshore of the coast, but only a slight deviation of the track could bring the center onshore in the hurricane warning area.
Maximum sustained winds are near 135 mph with higher gusts. Hurricane force winds extend outward up to 60 miles from the center, and tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 140 miles.


Kummant brings some
rail experience to the table

Alexander Kummant, 46, Amtrak’s new president and CEO, brings some railroad executive experience to his new job. He starts September 12.
The job was open for almost 10 months after the directors fired former president and CEO David Gunn.
Kummant previously worked at Union Pacific Corp., the largest U.S. railroad operator, and most recently was chief marketing officer for Komatsu America Corp., a unit of construction equipment supplier Komatsu Ltd. He has never operated a passenger railroad before, and worked for a carrier that is the nation’s major delayer of passenger trains.
According to documents on file with the Federal Elections Commission, Alexander Karl Kummant donated $6,523 to the Union Pacific Corp. Fund for Effective Government over three years, between 2000 and 2002.
A dozen Republican Congressmen received $10,000 election contributions, but Democrats were numbered among the lesser amounts. Candidate contributions for the 2005-2006 campaigns totaled $791798.
The AP noted Kummant is married to a former BNSF Railway executive, Kathleen Regan, who was vice-president, automotive, and vice-president business development for BNSF until her 2004 departure from BNSF. Both contributed to George W. Bush’s presidential campaign, as did Amtrak Chairman David Laney.
Reuters reported on Wednesday that Amtrak Chairman David Laney said that the railroad’s board of directors interviewed “a fairly long and deep list of highly qualified candidates,” including people with experience in the airline industry and commuter rail.
In a briefing, Laney acknowledged that Kummant has no experience with passenger railroads or with Congress, but he touted Kummant’s experience with customer service.
Laney said Kummant has experience in two other areas that will be key to Amtrak’s future: its relations with freight railroads and costly labor rules that, he said, hinder operations.
“We think we got the best of all candidates we saw, and that’s factoring in the lack of hands-on passenger rail experience,” Laney said.
Amtrak, created by Congress 35 years ago as a for-profit corporation after private railroads gave up service, depends on an annual federal subsidy to survive.
Tuesday’s press release from Amtrak made no mention of his job as president of BOMAG, German manufacturer of heavy equipment. He left BOMAG on January 31, 2005 citing personal reasons after serving as its president for less than two years.
Its operating losses have grown to more than $1 billion over the past three years, prompting pressure from budget and transportation planners for Amtrak to eliminate unprofitable routes and change core business practices, but Congress has long been reluctant to cut Amtrak spending because many members have constituents who benefit from train service and jobs.
Kummant, who currently resides in Chicago, went to work for UP before February 2001. The railroad stated in a press release at the time that it had created a “Premium Operations” group which would be the “new focal point for Union Pacific to deliver high-quality and reliable automotive and intermodal service.”
Premium Operations was headed by Alex Kummant as vice-president. He formerly was vice president and general manager of industrial products in UP’s Marketing and Sales Department.
In November of that same year, UP created its fourth operating region, and Kummant was its boss. The new regional headquarters was in Kansas City, Mo.
UP stated its four-region system would “continue the effort to decentralize decision-making into the field, while fostering improved customer responsiveness, operational excellence and personal accountability,” said Dennis Duffy, Executive Vice President-Operations.
The Central Region included the Kansas City, North Little Rock, St. Louis and Wichita service units. In a related move, the El Paso Service Unit was absorbed into the Wichita and Tucson service units.
Kummant headed the new region as a regional vice-president.
UP’s other regions are headquartered in Omaha; Roseville, Cal.; and Spring, Texas, a suburb of Houston.

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