Metrolink names new chief executive

Metrolink’s board of directors on Friday hired a former railroad vice president with broad transportation experience to replace David R. Solow, the embattled chief executive who became controversial following the September 2008 Chatsworth crash.

After a nationwide search for candidates, the commuter rail service selected John E. Fenton as its chief executive. The appointment will become effective April 16. Fenton’s salary and benefits had not been finalized and were unavailable Friday.

“With a unique combination of experience operating rail services and serving at the highest level of executive management, Mr. Fenton is well-prepared to ensure passenger safety and service in our complex railroad operating environment,” said Keith Millhouse, board chairman of the Southern California Regional Rail Authority.

Most recently, Fenton was a partner in CIH Capital Partners, an investment bank based in Miami. He previously served as president and chief executive of OmniTRAX Inc., a Denver-based transportation services company, which employed 1,600 people in 10 states and three Canadian provinces.

In the late 1990s, Fenton was a vice president and general manager of the Canadian National Railway, the country’s largest freight railroad. He also was a vice president for both the Kansas City Southern Railway and the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, which later became part of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway.


Fenton has a master of science degree in systems management from USC and a bachelor of science degree in business administration-transportation management from Indiana University, Bloomington.

Fenton will assume control of a passenger railroad that has 512 miles of track and serves six Southern California counties.

Since the Chatsworth crash that killed 25 people, the agency has been working to improve safety and trying to overcome financial problems and declining ridership triggered by the worst recession since World War II.

After more than a decade as chief executive, Solow stepped down in December during a management shake-up that Metrolink officials hoped would better position the agency to tackle the railroad’s challenges.