Monday, September 04, 2006

Extend a Hand to Alex Kummant

The appointment of Alexander Kummant as Amtrak CEO and President should be good news. We now have a replacement for David Gunn and there will no longer be ineffective interim operating officers responsible for what happens to Amtrak. Amtrak's board has seen to it. We who are interested in Passenger Rail should welcome Mr. Kummant as a breath of fresh air for the passenger train.

So much for optimism. We have run out of positive points.

Railway Age has already invited Mr. Kummant to be a keynote (if not "the" keynote) at the 13th Annual Passenger Trains of Freight Railroads Conference 10/16-17 in DC. That ought to be a hoot! As Forbes has noted, passenger rail experience is "palpably absent" from his (Mr. Kummant's) resume.

In a previous career - his was currently moving toward selling heavy Japanese equipment - Kummant was responsible for "premium operations" at Union Pacific. Putting the best possible light on this responsibility, he probably did interact with Passenger Rail in a positive way: He was the man most responsible for keeping Amtrak from taking up too much of Union Pacific's time and money by demanding on-time performance for its trains. We guarantee that when Mr. Kummant's premium trains were on the railroad, Amtrak took second, third, or fourth priority. This was positive for Union Pacific's bottom line, not for Amtrak.

So maybe the fox knows how to keep other foxes out of the henhouse. We doubt it.

Another plus is the reportedly heavy Kummant contribution to the Bush re-election. We guess he should have the ear of President Bush, if the contribution was big enough.

Most Internet reports are trying to put a positive spin on Kummant's appointment. Calling him a "veteran" railroad executive, they ignore the fact that "executive" is more important in his career than "railroad." As far as we can see, Kummant has not devoted his career to railroading and has never planned to do so. Further, there is no evidence that Kummant is even a railroad enthusiast. In our humble opinion, it takes at least an enthusiast to run a railroad.

We see a dark future for Amtrak under Kummant.

But let's give him a handshake and a welcome, and let's challenge him to prove us wrong. It could work out. Couldn't it? After all, he is apparently and experienced heavy equipment salesman . . . Uh, oh. . . . . .

©2006 - C. A. Turek -
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