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Two Monday announcements address leadership changes in the freight rail industry:

Norfolk Southern COO to step down; successor starts Jan. 1

Paul Duncan will succeed Cindy Sanborn. (Photo: NS)

Cindy Sanborn, a 35-year veteran of the railroad industry, is leaving her post as executive vice president and chief operating officer of Norfolk Southern at the end of the year.

Paul Duncan, currently serves NS’ senior vice president of transportation and network operations, will succeed Sanborn effective Jan. 1.

Sanborn joined NS (NYSE: NSC) during the COVID-19 pandemic and previously served with Union Pacific (NYSE: UNP) and NS competitor CSX (NASDAQ: CSX).

Sanborn “helped us navigate a global supply chain disruption. She strengthened our culture, served as an effective ambassador with our outside stakeholders, and was part of a team effort that has achieved significant improvements in service,” NS President and CEO Alan Shaw said in a news release.

Shaw also hailed Sanborn’s contributions not only to NS but to the broader industry: “Cindy’s impact goes well beyond Norfolk Southern. As the first female chief operating officer of a Class 1 railroad in the United States, she has been a trailblazer and an inspiration to many in the industry.”

In a statement, Sanborn said: “I’m proud of the gains we’ve made in service, safety and culture over the last two and a half years. As Norfolk Southern prepares to take the next step with our growth strategy, it’s the right time for our next generation of talented operations leaders to take the reins.”

Duncan has been with NS since March, starting as vice president of network planning and operations. He was promoted in September to his current role. During his tenure at NS, he led implementation of the TOP|SPG operating plan, NS’ latest iteration of its operating plan that utilizes precision scheduled railroading, a method adopted by the Class I railroads to streamline operations.

NS said Duncan played a central role in leading the railroad’s service recovery effort, “earning praise for his ability to bring people together and collaborate effectively across teams to drive results.”

“Paul is widely respected in the industry as one of the most talented leaders in the next generation of railroad operations executives. He combines a deep understanding of precision scheduled railroading with a strong customer-centric mindset, and appreciates the need to balance service, productivity, and growth,” Shaw said. “Paul is also the right leader to continue our progress engaging our craft railroaders and field supervisors.”

Prior to his tenure at NS, Duncan served as vice president of service design and performance for BNSF (NYSE: BRK.B). He also served as assistant vice president for capacity planning, where he oversaw BNSF’s physical infrastructure capital planning and led the network strategy team, NS said. 

Indiana Rail Road names new operating officer

Indiana Rail Road Co. (INRD) has appointed Derrick Wright as vice president of operations and mechanical. Wright will lead the short-line railroad’s transportation, mechanical, railroad services and safety departments.

Derrick Wright will have a new role at Indiana Rail Road. (Photo: INDR)

“Derrick’s experience and ability to develop continuity across all departments will be a great asset … . He is a great fit to our team as we continue to evolve as a premier transportation service provider,” said President and CEO Dewayne Swindall in a release.

Wright holds a Master of Science degree in transportation management from the University of Denver as well as a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Eastern Kentucky University. He has over 20 years of leadership experience at Class I and short-line railroads, serving most recently as chief operating officer at Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District. He has also served as vice president of the former Midwest region at Genesee & Wyoming and multiple roles at CSX.

INDR is a 500-mile railroad serving southwest Indiana and eastern Illinois, with access to the national rail network via gateways at Chicago, Indianapolis and Newton, Illinois.

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