We have completed the first full day of RailNation Miami and, as interesting and informative as it was, the highlight–or at least the most anticipated part–of these meetings occurred yesterday evening: a Fireside Chat featuring two former Amtrak presidents, Joe Boardman and David Gunn, former Massachusetts governor and presidential candidate, Michael Dukakis (photo below), and TRAINS Magazine columnist Fred Fraley. Boardman was present in person, the other three were on video.
None of them said anything startling, thus disappointing the crowd which had been anticipating that David Gunn was likely to be openly critical of his successor, David Anderson. It was not to be, although Gunn did say rather vaguely, that he didn’t approve of some of Anderson’s decisions.
The speaker who drew the most interest, however, was Amtrak’s Stephen Gardner (right), who has the title of Executive Vice President & Chief Commercial Officer. Gardner, you see, is said to be very close to Amtrak’s president & CEO Richard Anderson and is said to be the head of the faction advocating the shutting down of Amtrak’s long-distance trains. That may or may not be the case but, in any event, nothing Gardner said could be taken to mean the national network was in any immediate jeopardy. It is also true, however, that he said nothing to reassure our gathering that there was any kind of commitment to the long-distance trains.
Without doubt–well, for me, anyway–the most interesting session featured a panel including the president of Brightline, Patrick Goddard. (Brightline is the railroad now running trains at 125 mph speeds from Miami to West Palm Beach and eventually to Orlando.) More on this session tomorrow.