Amtrak's president told CNBC on Tuesday he does not see the futuristic hyperloop — conceived by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk — overtaking traditional rail travel and transport anytime soon.
Asked to assess the practicality of high-speed hyperloop pods and Musk's The Boring Company, Richard Anderson was skeptical. "I don't think it's realistic right now."
"I'm glad there are people like that [who] dream about that. But I'm sort of focused on bridges and tunnels that are 100 years old that need some real infrastructure investment," said Anderson, who was CEO of Delta Air Lines.
In July, Musk tweeted that he received a preliminary green light to dig a tunnel for a hyperloop between New York and Washington, D.C.
Just received verbal govt approval for The Boring Company to build an underground NY-Phil-Balt-DC Hyperloop. NY-DC in 29 mins.
Last week, Musk released video of a test of the "SpaceX/Tesla Hyperloop pusher pod."
We took the SpaceX/Tesla Hyperloop pusher pod for a spin by itself a few days ago to see what it… https://www.instagram.com/p/BYckipugds5/
Hyperloop One, one of the companies testing Musk's idea, said it "successfully completed the first full system, self-powered Hyperloop test" in May.
Anderson — who is also co-CEO of Amtrak with Wick Moorman, formerly CEO of rail giant Norfolk Southern — told "Squawk Box" he does not understand how companies "can have real huge losses" and still operate. "I'm probably too much of an old-school industrialist. I tend to look at things like cash flow, return on invested capital, and operating margins."
Anderson defended government subsidies to Amtrak, a federally chartered corporation. "If you look at transportation in the United States, it's all subsidized." As a former Delta chief, he said aviation depends on funding for the FAA, and added that "fuel taxes never cover the cost of highways."
Anderson appeared on CNBC as Amtrak resumed its regular operations at New York's Penn Station. The rail operator said accelerated summer track work, which began in July, was completed "on time and on budget."
The speedup of the timetable for the $40 million infrastructure project was prompted by derailments in the station during the spring, which wreaked havoc on rail service along the Northeast Corridor between Boston and Washington.
Repairs during the so-called summer of hell at the busy New York transportation hub concentrated on replacing tracks in a key area that serves as a critical sorting mechanism.
Amtrak owns Penn Station, which services Amtrak trains, NJ Transit and LIRR commuter lines and New York subways.