Ohio native will steer Amtrak
The Amherst, Ohio, Chronicle-Telegram's Bette Pearce was the first reporter to get an interview with Amtrak’s new CEO.
Alexander Kummant said he welcomes tackling the challenges facing the nation’s passenger rail carrier.
“An old professor once told me, it’s the hard things that are worth doing. This matters, and I’m excited to be a part of it,” he said.
Kummant was born in Lorain, Ohio and grew up in Amherst.
The nation needs a vision for its rail system, one that can safely support freight and passenger trains, according to Kummant.
“The national rail network has a finite capacity, and yet there has been no national dialogue about the capacity of the nation’s freight system,” Kummant said.
Kummant, 46, said his first job was during high school at the Lake Terminal Railroad at the U.S. Steel Lorain Works, where his father was an engineer.
Kummant will take the helm of Amtrak next week, which Chairman David Laney said requires an aggressive leader to tackle financial, management and operational challenges.
“We need a leader with vision and experience to get the job done,” Laney said.
Kummant’s track record in private industry and as an executive vice-president of the Union Pacific Railroad, and his self-described passion for “turnaround work,” seemed to fit the bill for the financially beleaguered Amtrak.
Kummant said federal matching funds are available to states for highways but not for rails. It’s logical that states would spend more money on roads than rails, but the states and federal government also must consider the future of the nation’s rail network in the context of both freight and passengers, he said.
“We can’t have a national dialogue about passenger rail without talking about the capacity of the freight system. They’re running record volume,” Kummant said.
“We need a national, open dialogue; we need to talk more about public and private financing and the capacity of our rail network and infrastructure.”
According to the federal government, Amtrak has a debt of more than $3.5 billion.
Its operating losses for 2005 topped $550 million, and Amtrak has never made a profit in its 35 years of operation.
“People talk about losses, but without splitting the capital spending out from the operational dollars. Infrastructure dollars can hardly be characterized as losses,” Kummant said.
For Amtrak’s debt, Kummant said, “the numbers, relative to the federal budget, are not huge numbers. My first thrust will be clarity in the dialogue.”
Some politicians have questioned whether Kummant’s new role is to build up Amtrak or dismantle it. Kummant dismisses such assertions.
“The board has only asked me to run Amtrak crisply and efficiently; to take a look at the entity as a whole and drive the operation and the business, as it were,” Kummant said Tuesday.
“That can mean most anything, but nobody has told me to dismantle anything.”
Kummant comes to his new job with a background in transportation and an engineering education.
After graduating from Marion L. Steele High School, Kummant attended Case Western Reserve Univ., where he earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. He later earned a master’s degree in manufacturing engineering from Carnegie Mellon Univ. and a master’s of business administration from Stanford Univ.
Kummant eventually went to work for the Emerson Co. as assistant to the company’s then vice president, Ike Evans.
“I grew up at Emerson,” Kummant said. “That’s where I got the financial and strategic training that I come with in my tool kit to this day.”
Kummant left Emerson and joined another company because he wanted a position in which he had more autonomy, he said. About the same time, his former boss and mentor, Evans, joined the UP.
Less than two years after his departure, Evans contacted Kummant.
“One day he called and asked, ‘How’d you like to run a $4 billion business?’ So, I went,” Kummant said.
At UP, he was credited with substantially improving customer services, on-time delivery of client products and significant gains in financial and operational performance, according to Amtrak.
Kummant’s brother, Peter, is a physician living in the Pittsburgh area; his sister, Inge, is a teacher in Ketchikan, Alaska.
Kummant and his wife, Kathleen, are outdoors enthusiasts and will be moving to the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.
AAR praises Peters’ nomination
“President Bush has made a superb choice in nominating Mary Peters to be the next Secretary of Transportation,” said Edward R. Hamberger, President and CEO of the Association of American Railroads, on Tuesday.
“Both as Secretary of Transportation for the state of Arizona and as Federal Highway Administrator, she has shown great capacity to master transportation policy across all modes. She also has demonstrated the ability to work with all stakeholders in addressing our transportation needs,” Hamburger said.
He added, “This background makes Peters uniquely qualified to lead the USDOT at a time when congestion and other transportation issues are assuming greater importance.”
Man dies on Amtrak train;
rides for 1,000 miles
A Grayslake, Ill. woman traveled cross-country on an Amtrak train with her deceased father because she didn’t want to tell officials he had died during the trip from California to Chicago, police said.
Daniel Stepanovich, 80, of Hammond, was pronounced dead at 12:05 a.m. Tuesday, about seven hours after the train pulled into Union Station, according to Chicago police.
Stepanovich, who died from heart disease and cancer, according to the Cook County medical examiner, passed away about 15 hours earlier in Glenwood Springs, Colo., The AP reported.
His daughter, whose name wasn’t released, didn’t alert authorities at that time because she said she lacked the money to ship the body home, said Chicago Police Officer JoAnn Taylor.
Stepanovich, who had been a patient at St. Anthony Medical Center in Crown Point, Ind., during the past year, was traveling in one of the train's sleepers, police said.
METRA needs engineers
Metra is looking to hire certified locomotive engineers to operate its fleet of locomotives in the Chicago area and the six-county region of northeastern Illinois. The 495-mile METRA system serves 230 stations in the counties of Cook, DuPage, Lake, Will, McHenry and Kane.
The commuter railroad stated, via the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers website, minimum acceptable qualifications include being currently certified as a locomotive engineer in good standing, at least two years minimum experience with no decertifications, and must be available for 24 hour call.
Various other qualifications surrounding this level of responsibility will be determined during the interview. Only qualified candidates will receive consideration.
The carrier added, only documentation with salary history will be considered, and relocation is not available.
A cover letter, which must include the position title, your resume and salary history should be sent to
Office of Human Resources
547 W. Jackson Blvd.
Chicago, IL 60661
FAX: (312) 322-8937
CSXT to conduct first annual
E-Business customer forum
CSXT’s E-business group said yesterday it will hold its first annual E-Business Customer Forum in Orlando on October 5 and 6.
The two-day forum will consist of speakers from CSX, including Ed Jenkins, Assistant Vice-President for Marketing & E-business; Shelley Mast, Vice President, Customer Service Operations; Steve Potter, Assistant Vice-President, Car Management; and John West, President of CSX Technology.
During a panel discussion with Jenkins, Mast, Potter and West, customers can ask questions.
Breakout training sessions will provide customers with an opportunity to learn how to use CSXT’s E-business tools. The breakout training sessions will highlight E-Business tools and customer services including submitting timely and accurate shipping instructions, efficient management of plant inventory and demurrage, and proactive traffic monitoring.
Other topics include viewing, disputes and paying freight and incidental bills, streamlining day-to-day business processes with E-Business tools, and learning about customs regulations.
There are other topics on the agenda.
The forum will wrap up with an interactive trade show featuring departments that customers work with on a daily, including E-Business, customer service, pricing services, car management and service design.
Other departmental views will include service startup and integration, new business development, supplemental services, freight claims, and regional and short line development.
"The forum will allow customers to gain a better understanding of service tools available to them, and allow CSX to gain an in-depth knowledge of our customers expectations and future direction," said Eddie Chesser, CSX's E-Business director.
This link will get you to registration information:
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