FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. -- Metro-North Railroad President Howard Permut, 62, put in his last day with the railroad on Friday.
Permut began his Metropolitan Transportation Authority career in 1979 and was one of 10 people chosen to form Metro-North from the Conrail commuter lines in 1983. He was named Metro-North president in 2008
“Howard Permut’s career spans the entire history of Metro-North, a time in which the railroad enhanced its service to double its ridership and carry more customers than any other railroad in the nation. I want to thank him for his service to the railroad and to the people of New York and Connecticut during his distinguished career,” Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman and CEO Thomas F. Prendergast said.
Permut left the job after a difficult year for Metro-North, with two derailments -- one with its first fatalities in the railroad's 30-year history as well as a three-week service slowdown in October. He acknowledged the difficulties in a farewell statement, saying "The serious incidents that occurred, including the tragic Spuyten Duyvil derailment, shook us to our core. This event, in particular, will affect me for the rest of my life."
In May, a New Haven Line train derailed and collided with a second train heading in the opposite direction along the Fairfield-Bridgeport border. More than 60 people were injured. Investigators found that the accident may have been caused by a damaged rail joint on the track.
After an electrical feeder line experienced heavy damage near Mount Vernon, N.Y., on Sept. 25, Metro-North's New Haven Line was disrupted service for 12 days.
The derailment along the Hudson Line in the Bronx on Dec. 1 caused four deaths and 63 injuries. Officials believe it was caused by excessive speed as the train moved through a curve.
Permut's successor, Joseph Giulietti, will take over on Monday, Feb. 10. Giulietti has served as executive director of the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority for more than 14 years, and previously was a Metro-North executive for 15 years, starting at the railroad’s inception.
Here is Permut's farewell to statement to commuters from the MTA website:
"After a 34-year career at Metro-North, I am retiring today (Friday, January 31) as president of the railroad. Joseph J. Giulietti, who currently serves as executive director of the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority, and who previously was a Metro-North executive for 15 years, will succeed me.
"Metro-North has constituted the major part of my career, and a good part of my life. I was privileged to be one of the founding members of the railroad in 1983.
"We faced great challenges, many of which, at the time, seemed insurmountable. Yet over the years, we achieved successes that were unimaginable in those early days. We became the busiest railroad in the U.S. and along the way earned a reputation for delivering excellent customer service. Last year, we celebrated two significant milestones – our 30th anniversary and the Centennial of Grand Central Terminal, for which we serve as the proud steward.
"Amidst all the strides that we have made, however, last year was unarguably the most difficult period in Metro-North history and the most difficult of my tenure. The serious incidents that occurred, including the tragic Spuyten Duyvil derailment, shook us to our core. This event, in particular, will affect me for the rest of my life.
"Every employee at Metro-North is committed to working diligently to operate the railroad in the safest manner possible, and to regain your trust. Your safety has always been, and always will be, our first priority.
"Leading this railroad has been an honor. Without a doubt, any records that Metro-North has achieved have resulted from the hard work and dedication of its employees. It has been a privilege to be associated with this team.
"I thank you for your ongoing patronage through the good, and even the tough times. For their unwavering support of Metro-North through the years, thanks also goes to our service partners and elected officials without whose assistance we could not have accomplished the many service enhancements that benefit our customers and communities at large.
"I know that this railroad’s new president, and all of its employees, will continue the pursuit of excellence that was set in motion in 1983."