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Passenger Trains > DAVID GUNN SPEAKS OUT! INTERVIEW WITH RAILWAY AGE.


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Date: 11/10/05 14:23
DAVID GUNN SPEAKS OUT! INTERVIEW WITH RAILWAY AGE.
Author: RWS4449

David Gunn: "I did the honorable thing"

When he came out of retirement to accept the position as Amtrak's
resident and Chief Executive Officer little more than three years ago,
David L. Gunn-a highly respected career railroader with more than 40
years' experience operating freight trains and running transit systems in
the U.S. and Canada-said he didn't need the job, and if his superiors
didn't like the job he was doing, they could fire him. He'd return to his
home in Nova Scotia.

That's exactly what happened earlier today, when Amtrak's four-person,
Bush-Administration-appointed Board of Directors (only one of
which-Chairman David M. Laney-has been confirmed by the U.S. Senate),
released Gunn, saying that Amtrak "needed to intensify the pace and
broaden the scope of its reforms." He was reportedly let go because of
"philosophical differences" with the Board, most likely a clash over the
Board's vote in September to authorize splitting off the Northeast
Corridor, an idea backed by the Bush Administration. That apparently was
the straw that broke the camel's back.

Chief Engineer David Hughes has been named Acting President and CEO, and
the Board "has launched a national search to find the railroad's next
leader."

"The Board members came in this morning and asked me to resign. I refused,
so they fired me," Gunn said in an interview this afternoon with Railway
Age Editor William C. Vantuono. "I feel at least that I did the right,
honorable thing. I wasn't going to abandon our people." He said that the
Bush Administration's people wanted to implement their plan, "which is
destroying Amtrak." "I stood in their way," he said. "That's why they
fired me."

Gunn, a veteran of the Santa Fe and Illinois Central railroads who made
his mark in transportation by turning around transit systems in Boston,
New York City, Washington D.C., and Toronto, spent the past three-plus
years streamlining Amtrak's management structure, improving financial
controls, and implementing many state-of-good-repair programs on plant and
equipment. "If you want an example of getting fired for producing good
numbers, this is it," he said. "It's an upside-down world we live in."

The biggest question: Who will want Gunn's job? Presumably, it will have
to be someone willing to be more aggressive in carrying out the
Administration's plans for "reforming" Amtrak and intercity passenger
rail.

"David Gunn has helped Amtrak make important 0perational improvements over
the past three years," said Laney in a prepared statement. "Amtrak's
future now requires a different type of leader who will aggressively
tackle the company's financial, management, and operational challenges.
The need to bring fundamental change to Amtrak is greater and more urgent
than ever before. The Board approved a strategic plan in April that
provides a blueprint for a stronger and more sustainable Amtrak. Now we
need a leader with vision and experience to get the job done."

"I have known David Gunn many years and respect the work he did to help
streamline and stabilize Amtrak," U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman
Mineta said in a prepared statement. "However, it is the job of Amtrak's
Board to make decisions that are in the best interest of Amtrak. I am
confident in the Board's judgment and its belief that different leadership
is needed to address the serious challenges facing the company. The U.S.
Department of Transportation stands ready to support Amtrak as it reforms
its long distance services, upgrades the Northeast Corridor, and
establishes new fiscal accountability measures and will continue to work
with Congress to ensure the future of intercity passenger rail." (Just two
days ago, following a highly critical General Accountability Office
report, Mineta said that Amtrak needs to "clean up its act and become more
accountable to taxpayers and the traveling public.")

"Anything they'll tell you is bulls_t," Gunn told Railway Age in his
characteristically frank, shoot-from-the hip manner. Citing the 93-6 vote
in the Senate approving an Amtrak reathorization bill earmarking nearly
$12 billion in mostly capital investment over the next few years, Gunn
said "it doesn't compute. The Administration is serious about taking this
place apart."

Gunn's ouster has prompted a flurry of mostly angry reactions:

"Today's decision to fire David Gunn is wrong, ill-advised, and further
proof that the Bush Administration doesn't want Amtrak to succeed," said
Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), a former Amtrak Board member. "Strangely, this
decision comes just a week after the Senate overwhelmingly approved an
Amtrak reform bill in one of the most pro-Amtrak votes I've ever seen.
Ninety-three senators are now on record supporting a meaningful and
thoughtful Amtrak reform bill. It's unfortunate that the Administration,
through the Board, would rather play games with Amtrak's management than
engage Congress on how to make Amtrak stronger. Today's action was taken
by a weak Board with questionable legitimacy. It is just one in a long
line of poorly thought-out proposals to come out of the Bush
Administration. Earlier this year, the Administration proposed to
eliminate all funding for Amtrak and reform it through the bankruptcy
courts. Then they proposed splitting off the Northeast Corridor. Now
they're firing someone who's actually made real progress at bringing some
much-needed change to Amtrak."

Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.), who with Sen. Frank Lautenberg cosponsored the
successful Amtrak reathorization bill, called the Amtrak Board's action "a
step backward."

"The manner in which Mineta has handled this is disgraceful," said another
industry observer. He described the Secretary as "widely regarded in the
railway industry as little more than a Bush Administration puppet."
Mineta's pronouncements on Amtrak, particularly, the FRA awarding grants
to Amtrak only if it "demonstrates that it has reformed its acquisitions
practices," have sounded like "the petulant parent who threatens to punish
a misbehaving child by cutting off his allowance."

David Laney was previously on record as opposing Administration plans to
break up Amtrak. He "is now seen as a part of that effort," said the
National Corridors Initiative. "Many people believe that the
Administration will attempt to sell off the Northeast Corridor to a
consortium of private interests. Administration officials are reportedly
in the process of meeting with the private-sector organizations involved."

NCI's analysis may not be wholly accurate. Other sources have told Railway
Age that a more likely scenario would involve retaining federal ownership
of the NEC but placing operations under the auspices of a public/private
partnership that would include a federal/multi-state consortium. That
model, Gunn maintains, won't work, given a railroad's unique (compared to
other transportation modes) need for fully integrated operations and
infrastructure.

What happens next? "The Administration is running out of time," Gunn told
Railway Age. "They have to do a lot of the dirty stuff this year, because
next year is an election year, and what they've got in mind will be very
unpopular." Gunn predicted that, within the next few months, "there will
be a lot of train-offs and other service cutbacks."



Date: 11/10/05 15:32
Re: DAVID GUNN SPEAKS OUT! INTERVIEW WITH RAILWAY AGE.
Author: FallinFlag

ask anyone & the oakland crewbase if they will miss gunn? can heir deely & diaper boy be next? if there is a god!



Date: 11/10/05 15:51
Re: DAVID GUNN SPEAKS OUT! INTERVIEW WITH RAILWAY AGE.
Author: reindeerflame

It's probably time to bring in a contractor to run all these yard operations and get rid of the whole Amtrak involvement. It's already happened on the information clerk aspect.



Date: 11/10/05 16:03
Re: DAVID GUNN SPEAKS OUT! INTERVIEW WITH RAILWAY AGE.
Author: pecosvalleychief


"Anything they'll tell you is bulls_t,"

Whether Gunn was right or wrong, I'll always admire him for speaking his mind.

Allen in B-town



Date: 11/10/05 17:48
Re: DAVID GUNN SPEAKS OUT! INTERVIEW WITH RAILWAY AGE.
Author: bisbeekid

Interesting to see how this all shakes out. Most likely is this will be something of a replay of the Amtrak budget crisis of four years ago. The primary difference is the Bush Administration is in a far weaker position than it was at the time of its first Amtrak crisis. Now almost every Administration action is viewed with skepticism and remember Gunns firing came one day after the Senate voted 96 - 2 in support of Amtrak.
My best guess and yes hope is that this will be seen as just another misstep by an administration that's seen as essentially incompetent driven by insider deals and ideology.



Date: 11/10/05 18:24
Re: DAVID GUNN SPEAKS OUT! INTERVIEW WITH RAILWAY AGE.
Author: lowwater

bisbeekid Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Interesting to see how this all shakes out. Most
> likely is this will be something of a replay of
> the Amtrak budget crisis of four years ago. The
> primary difference is the Bush Administration is
> in a far weaker position than it was at the time
> of its first Amtrak crisis. Now almost every
> Administration action is viewed with skepticism
> and remember Gunns firing came one day after the
> Senate voted 96 - 2 in support of Amtrak.
> My best guess and yes hope is that this will be
> seen as just another misstep by an administration
> that's seen as essentially incompetent driven by
> insider deals and ideology.
>
You are mostly right, although IIRC the vote was actually 93-6. Still.... And of course House approval of the reconcilliation bill remains.

There is also the problem of how much damage the board can do without interference. Somebody with far greater knowledge of the Amtrak Reform and Accountability Act than I will have to address that issue. For those who really want to dive into it:

http://www.fra.dot.gov/downloads/counsel/legislation/105-134.pdf

I am at least hoping that this sleazy excuse for a board can't do anything regarding disposal of assets, train-offs, etc. etc. in the face of approval of the annual appropriation (different from the amended reconcilliation bill) w/o Congressional action, but I don't know that.

In other words, so far as I can see a lot of uncertainty remains.

lowwater



Date: 11/10/05 18:27
Amtrak Kicks Up Dirt
Author: cozephyr

Bummer to learn Gunn has been fired. The dirt is flying around Washington, DC.

Amtrak's California Zephyr, train 5, was kicking up the dirt getting the job done on November 9, 2005 at Tolland, CO. Thanks, Mr. Gunn, for keeping the long distance trains rolling.




Date: 11/10/05 20:28
Re: DAVID GUNN SPEAKS OUT! INTERVIEW WITH RAILWAY AGE.
Author: ProAmtrak

I 2Nd it, I for one don't blame Mr. Gunn at all on sticking to his guns in the 1ST place, so it wasn't his idea on splitting the NEC, he was for the 5 year budget thing and all that, but he knew what it took to keep Amtrak together, yeah I was pissed when 40 and 41 got canned last year, but I'm not holding my breath, and I hope they don't give in to Bush and Co. because everyone knows their "reform" for Amtrak is a recipie for dissaster!



Date: 11/10/05 21:35
Re: DAVID GUNN SPEAKS OUT! INTERVIEW WITH RAILWAY AGE.
Author: Anonymous User

I hear Brownie's looking for a job.



Date: 11/10/05 22:07
Re: Amtrak Kicks Up Dirt
Author: fjc

Ya, but for how long now?

cozephyr Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

>

> Thanks, Mr. Gunn, for
> keeping the long distance trains rolling.





Date: 11/10/05 23:30
Re: Amtrak Kicks Up Dirt
Author: Red

COZEPHYR:

That is a very great shot of the CALIFORNIA ZEPHYR, and, a good study of the GE Genesis in motion. Thanks for a beautiful picture in the midst of this sea of bad news. You have cost me a lot of printer ink with some of the recent pictures you've posted, that I just HAVE to have for my hanging file "Excellent Photo File" hanging in my desk!!!



Date: 11/10/05 23:44
Re: DAVID GUNN SPEAKS OUT! INTERVIEW WITH RAILWAY AGE.
Author: Red

Here's my analysis (and it's but a partial one). MINETA is the true sleaze bag. Here is a fellow (now, we've got conservatives and liberals, Democrats and Republicans on this board...and I do not want to start a Democrat vs. Republican debate here)...but HERE is a fellow that HAS no convictions...other than to hang on to a Cabinet position. This is a Clinton cabinet figure...who is now a Bush cabinet figure. He does the bidding of whatever master he has, and, probably has no true feelings on the issue at all. He is a foot soldier in the corridors of power who will do whatever it is that makes him feel secure in his ivory tower. Were a Nazi to win the next election, I think he'd convert over to the Nazi party (and then his main mission in life would simply be to "make the trains run on time"...LOL).

Tommy Thompson wanted the Transportation Secretary job SO bad (former governor of Wisconsin...I think that was the state...former Amtrak Board Chairman)...a good Republican who also happened to be a very big Amtrak supporter and a man whose primary interest was the transportation sector. Instead, he got HEW, a job that really held little interest for him, and burned him out.

But...I do have faith. I've been writing "Save Amtrak" letters to Congressmen and Senators since I was 13 (and I'm not "wet behind the ears anymore"), and I'm convinced that Amtrak is strong enough politically to withstand these storms.

There will always be people who talk out of both sides of their mouth...who do not see the INCONSISTENCY of their philosophy...who think Amtrak should be privatized, contracted out, junked out entirely, operated with slave labor, and what have you...who nevertheless do not see that the barge industries, airline industries, trucking industries, bussing industries, or, you and I driving the automobiles that WE pay for...are government subsidized transportation.

And, yes...I am a conservative...or at least right-of-center Republican who holds these views...not that I think anybody cares. But it IS possible to be a Republican, AND recognize the realities of a balanced transportation system.



Date: 11/11/05 03:45
Re: DAVID GUNN SPEAKS OUT! INTERVIEW WITH RAILWAY AGE.
Author: njt4172

If Congress just approved a $1.4 Billon dollar package for Amtrak, I still don't understand how all long distance trains will come to a halt.... Is that the plan by the Bush administration and the Amtrak Subcommittee??? Ofcourse it is, however I still don't think it will happen....If it does happen, I just can't imagine the outrage from many members of congress and of course the mayors, governors from each state which the train travels through.. Also the local public who ride the trains from rural towns to metropolis will be equally enraged!!!

Hell, Even Trent Lott who is a conservative republican was outraged by the decision to fire Gunn! Although Bush WWW thinks he is King, HE ISNT!!! I hope he realizes that most decisions in this country like any other republic democracy are made by Congress and NOT our "so called" president with his puppet cronies!!! Shame on you BUSH!! I hope your 38% approval rating goes down to 10% or less!!! Wake up and smell the coffee as your country and economy is going in the sh*tter....

Steve



Date: 11/11/05 04:34
Re: DAVID GUNN SPEAKS OUT! INTERVIEW WITH RAILWAY AGE.
Author: joemvcnj

< If Congress just approved a $1.4 Billon dollar package for Amtrak, I still don't understand how all long distance trains will come to a halt.... Is that the plan by the Bush administration and the Amtrak Subcommittee??? Ofcourse it is, however I still don't think it will happen....If it does happen, I just can't imagine the outrage from many members of congress and of course the mayors, governors from each state which the train travels through.. Also the local public who ride the trains from rural towns to metropolis will be equally enraged!!! >

Easy: they don't have to spend it, or spend it labor protection.

Bush has lost every political battle this year, including cutting $50B in poverty programs with along $70B more in tax cuts for the rich yesterday. His only victory has been to decapitate Amtrak.




Date: 11/11/05 06:38
Re: DAVID GUNN SPEAKS OUT! INTERVIEW WITH RAILWAY AGE.
Author: csx5000

Thank god Gunn did speak. wish i could have met him. There is alot of true resdpect that goes around for someone that can reform amtrak to what it is. I had the pleasure of riding the 29 and 30 and the service was tremendous. I sat int he sightseer loung for around 3 hours and asked around where we were at. The conductors were helpful and very kind. now to get this monkey off my back, i say oust the board and bring back gunn. why? well id run amtrak with Gunn yea David Gunn as the second in command. and a personal message from me to Mr. Gunn: good luck and happy retirement
railfan1 out



Date: 11/11/05 08:12
Re: DAVID GUNN SPEAKS OUT! INTERVIEW WITH RAILWAY AGE.
Author: dhart

Chill everyone; AMTRAK is safe for years to come. The Bush administration has much, much bigger items on its plate than AMTRAK. No one is indispensable, not even Gunn. He wouldn’t place the political game in D.C. and now he’s gone. Minneta knows how to play that game and he still has a job. A new guy will be along shortly maybe better, maybe worse. The budget reconciliation bill is almost done, Bush will sign it and ATMRAK can continue lurching down the track.



Date: 11/11/05 08:33
Re: DAVID GUNN SPEAKS OUT! INTERVIEW WITH RAILWAY AGE.
Author: highgreengraphics

Sounds like the very time-worn "He was not a team player" excuse to fire anybody for any reason. Ya, let's put some wag like that sleepy FEMA boss we all saw on TV after the hurricane in charge! - - - - - - - - - - - - JLH



Date: 11/11/05 11:50
Re: DAVID GUNN SPEAKS OUT! INTERVIEW WITH RAILWAY AGE.
Author: TV-10

dhart Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> He wouldn’t place (sic)
> the political game in D.C. and now he’s gone.
> Minneta knows how to play that game and he still
> has a job.


What made him effective to the turnaround in equipment availaibility, trimming personnel fat, and increased passenger loading was the fact he DIDN'T play games.



Date: 11/11/05 12:40
Re: DAVID GUNN SPEAKS OUT! INTERVIEW WITH RAILWAY AGE.
Author: NateF40Amtrak

Someone told me a long time ago that there are three sides to every story: your side, my side and the truth.

It is nice to hear Gunn's side of the story. Not to many people will speak out about things in todays corporate world.

NateF40Amtrak
http://clevelandtrains.net



Date: 11/12/05 21:00
Re: DAVID GUNN SPEAKS OUT! INTERVIEW WITH RAILWAY AGE.
Author: ProAmtrak

dhart Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Chill everyone; AMTRAK is safe for years to come.
> The Bush administration has much, much bigger
> items on its plate than AMTRAK. No one is
> indispensable, not even Gunn. He wouldn’t place
> the political game in D.C. and now he’s gone.
> Minneta knows how to play that game and he still
> has a job. A new guy will be along shortly maybe
> better, maybe worse. The budget reconciliation
> bill is almost done, Bush will sign it and ATMRAK
> can continue lurching down the track.


Chill everyone? Are you sure about this? I for one aint holding my breath, but right now I'm not a happy person (again if you guys remmeber my attitude for Warrington back in 2001-2002) so am I chillin'? Not on your life!



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