Congressman Cohen Questions Amtrak CEO on Commitment to Customers
WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), a senior member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, today expressed his concern that Amtrak President and CEO Richard H. Anderson would not keep a stated commitment to customer service given the way Delta Air Lines, under Anderson’s leadership, broke its promises to keep the Memphis International Airport as a hub.
Congressman Cohen reminisced about rail travel and the dining car experience he enjoyed as a child and criticized Anderson for Amtrak’s decision to abandon traditional food service, which has generated more than 118,000 written complaints. The Congressman then reminded Anderson of their last exchange, at an April 2008 hearing of the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law, in which Anderson testified that Memphis would retain its hub and its non-stop flight to Amsterdam after its merger with Northwest. After the merger, Delta closed the Memphis hub and ended the Amsterdam flight.
In his questioning of Anderson, Congressman Cohen said:
“Let me just remind you, sir, that the last time you were testifying and I was questioning, you promised me, you assured me, that Delta, when they merged with Northwest, would not leave the Memphis hub. The Memphis hub was there in perpetuity...And that the non-stop Amsterdam flight from Memphis would not stop. That turned out not to be true, so I have a problem respecting what you say here.”
Regarding Amtrak’s decision to eliminate food service, Congressman Cohen said:
“Now Amtrak is cutting out dining service. This is short-sighted and foolish. It’s like Delta Air Lines taking away amenities to passengers and making air travel more like traveling on a bus...I hope you don’t continue that at Amtrak.”
In response to his question about dining service to Jim Mathews, President and CEO of the Rail Passengers Association, Mathews told him: “It’s not just the food but the experience, the shared experience of meeting people on the train and having a shared meal.”
See the exchange with Anderson here.