Q&A with Andy Daly, CSX senior director of passenger operations

“My role is really a matter of managing relationships.” — Andy Daly CSX

By Julie Sneider, Senior Editor

As senior director of passenger operations at CSX, Andy Daly is the point person on all the performance and contractual relationships that CSX has with Amtrak and other passenger-rail operators on the Class I’s 20,000-mile network.  

Currently, CSX hosts a quarter of Amtrak’s U.S. train miles, with 59 Amtrak trains running on CSX tracks daily. Meanwhile, the Class I also works with commuter railroads — including Virginia Railway Express (VRE), Maryland’s MARC system and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) — to host their trains on CSX track. All passenger services combined, passenger trains run on 3,500 miles of the Class I's network. 

With talk of expanding Amtrak and passenger-rail service now a hot topic in the United States thanks to new funding via the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the role that CSX and other Class Is will play in the conversation is key. In many cases it’s their tracks that will host new or expanded passenger-rail service in the future.  

In late November 2023, Daly was invited to testify before the House Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials, which held a hearing titled, “Getting on the Right Track: Navigating the Future of Intercity Passenger Rail in America.” Daly was asked to describe how an increase in intercity passenger-rail service would impact freight railroads, and to explain CSX’s process when considering whether it can accommodate additional passenger trains. 

Daly said CSX takes into account four “pillars” or areas before hosting passenger trains on its tracks: Safety, capacity, compensation and liability. 

CSX Train A CSX train travels through Unionville, New York. CSX

Since Daly testified in Congress on the topic, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) announced 69 passenger-rail corridor selections across 44 states through the new Corridor Identification and Development Program, which was created by the IIJA. The selections were awarded up to $500,000 for further study and planning activities for new or expanded passenger-rail service. As a result, Daly and his counterparts at other Class Is will be participants in those corridor studies. 

Earlier this week, Daly chatted with RailPrime Senior Editor Julie Sneider about his job, how CSX works with Amtrak and other passenger railroads and how the first round of the Corridor ID program will impact the Class I as communities in those corridors plan for new or more passenger-rail service. 

Sneider first asked Daly — a fourth-generation railroader — how he got into the business. Their conversation was edited for length and clarity.


RailPrime  Tell me about your family’s history with railroading.  

Daly: I hired out for CSX on July 9, 2000. Ironically, I hired out on my father’s 26th anniversary of working for the railroad. So, we share a hire date. I attended college prior to joining the railroad. Railroading is something that I really wanted to do, but my parents wanted me to make sure that I explored my options. ... 

After college, I hired out as a yard master in Lima, Ohio, and I did that for about a year and a half before I moved into management and became a front-line manager in Toledo; I started off at the now-inactive Stanley hump yard; and then worked over in Walbridge at the auto facility, with coal responsibilities there, as well.  

After three years in Toledo, I moved into the network operations side of the world at the dispatch center in Chicago as director of train operations. Working in Chicago was quite an eye-opener; it’s a very intense environment with a lot of other railroads and interactions there. I did that for about three years prior to moving out to Philadelphia, where I had the opportunity to run my own field operations; I had a couple different yards there as well as some line-of-road operations. I did that job for about four years before being called back home to Chicago, where I'm originally from, and spent seven years heading up the dispatch portion of that Chicago division. I had responsibility for all the dispatch center as well as the managers who worked there. After seven years there, I moved into my current role as senior director of passenger operations in 2017. 

My father [Pat Daly] hired out in Chicago as the tower operator at 14th Street. He worked his way up and transitioned from tower operator to the dispatch center, was a dispatcher and then frontline manager at Barr Yard in Chicago. He moved around a lot; spent time in intermodal and transportation network operations. He retired from CSX in about 2010. He then went back to work as general manager of the Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad for an additional five years before finally retiring. 

My grandfather also was in Chicago, worked in the dispatch center there, worked in various locations. He stayed in Chicago his entire career, primarily as a tower operator in the dispatch center. And then he held some management positions within the Chicago division as well.  

I know my great-grandfather worked for the railroad, but I’m not sure where he started out or what he all did. But I know he worked at Union Terminal when our predecessor railroads were handling passenger rail. So, he started off this whole legacy in the passenger world and I guess I'm bringing it full circle by being involved with it now. 


RailPrime  Describe what your current role as senior director of passenger operations entails. 

Daly: You know, my role is really a matter of managing relationships: our contractual relationships, planning with the passenger agencies and performance issues. We have many passenger partners that we host on CSX, so we are responsible for their performance — be it Amtrak, MARC, VRE. And then, there are operators where we are a tenant on their railroad — MBTA, and Amtrak on the Hudson Line and a bit of the Northeast Corridor and Metro-North. Also, SunRail in Florida and Metra, as well. 


RailPrime  Describe how CSX works with Amtrak and passenger railroads to ensure their trains get to their destinations on time while also ensuring CSX trains get to their destinations on time. 

Daly: We do quite a bit of a communication with Amtrak, including structured monthly calls where we review performance as a whole. We look at specific train data and performance metrics. ... We also communicate with active state partners [that sponsor passenger-rail service.] Just this morning, we took a call with the Downeaster service, which is relatively new to CSX. We discussed performance on that line and [infrastructure] trends coming up, such as track work. ... 

We also have ad hoc mitigation discussions over things [such as cancellations or weather events] and what sort of manpower and equipment CSX has in position to mitigate those situations as quickly as possible to minimize disruptions to service. 

We also speak monthly with the FRA and Surface Transportation Board to report on our performance and let them know of any anticipated issues or concerns that we've seen or trends that we're working to resolve. 


RailPrime  You mentioned working with the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority (NNEPRA) and its Downeaster service, a host relationship that CSX gained when it acquired Pan Am Railways on projects to improve rail service reliability as well as paving the way for an increase in Downeaster service. The FRA recently awarded NNEPRA a $27.5 million grant for track-related improvements on the CSX mainline that the Amtrak Downeaster uses from Brunswick, Maine, to the Massachusetts state line, as well as support for future service expansion. Tell me more about that. 

Daly: We have weekly call with NNEPRA in which we talk not only about performance and related issues, but also what their vision is and what they’re striving for in terms of service. We’re in the process of PTC installation, and we’re working through the FRA on some [federal environmental] requirements there before we can actually start putting tools into dirt to make PTC a reality. [PTC installation] will enable us to exceed the amount of transit operating there now. 


RailPrime  Describe the balance you must reach to accommodate passenger trains that use CSX tracks and also maintain good relationships with your freight customers. 

Daly: That's the crux of the issue: How do we balance that? That’s the question we evaluate when we look at any request [to host passenger-rail service.] And it’s all based on what ‘the ask’ is — what is it that they want. ... Once we see what that is, we can start to evaluate the impacts, if any, that their service would have on [freight] operations on an existing line. 

For example, look at what we’re doing with the Massachusetts DOT: We’re currently evaluating some additional Amtrak service between Springfield and Boston. We’ve been able to work with MassDOT and Amtrak to start evaluating what that would look like. A rail traffic control (RTC) model is being developed ... with our schedules, some FRA guidance on growth rates and the proposed passenger service to see what the impacts would be. Depending on the density of the line, different outcomes may result through the model. 

If it’s a lower density line, adding service may not impact us, and we could start planning quickly. It could involve making some small shifts of schedules to avoid conflicts on the line. ... If simple schedule adjustments won’t fix it, then we start looking at infrastructure solutions to accommodate that passenger service in tandem with our operating service. 


RailPrime  How is CSX affected by the FRA’s new Corridor ID program? How do you view what many members of the public hope will result in considerable expansion of passenger rail in the United States? 

Daly: I’m excited about it. The Corridor ID program sets up a framework; the FRA is trying to set up some guardrails to usher [corridor applicants] through the process with FRA guidance. ... But as I indicated before, it depends on what level of passenger-rail service the applicants are looking for. The Corridor ID program helps them hone what exactly their ‘ask’ is, then they can start to shape and develop it and shop it around to their constituents.  

You know, [the grant awards] aren’t the end of the story. The next phase of the Corridor ID program is going to be a longer step — it does require some kind of [state or local] funding match, which may weed out some of the service requests until their plans are more fully developed. 

We’ve already had some outreach from those entities that received grants ... and we’ve answered a lot of questions. [But] host involvement doesn’t really come into it until toward the end of phase two. I appreciate what the FRA is trying to do in getting more consistency around it. I’m looking forward to how that progresses.