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Vena pens letter to UP team on first day as CEO

Union Pacific Railroad will become the safest railroad, improve its service product and become more efficient and reliable for customers, communities and shareholders, UP CEO Jim Vena wrote today in a letter to company employees on his first day on the job.

“My vision and focus are clear: Safety, service and operational excellence will equal growth,” Vena wrote. “Together, we will achieve the best safety record in the industry, be known for superior service grounded in operational excellence — and because of these things — we will achieve growth.”

He described his railroad career, which began as a union brakeman and advanced to conductor, locomotive engineer, train master and superintendent. Vena later moved into management, serving in roles across operations and marketing. He served in leadership roles as a senior vice president across the United States and Canadian regions at CN.

Vena eventually became executive VP and chief operating officer at CN, where he learned the principles of precision scheduled railroading and brought that experience to UP, where he served as COO from 2019 to 2020.

In his new role as CEO, he will travel the system to answer employees’ questions about what comes next for the company, his letter states.

“I share some of those questions, and I will learn a lot from you as I travel the system,” Vena wrote. “What I can tell you is that we will become the safest railroad in the world. I can tell you we will improve our service product, and we will become more efficient and more reliable — for ourselves, our customers, our communities and our shareholders.”

Vena’s full letter can be read here. As CEO, he succeeds Lance Fritz, who last week penned a letter to company employees. Fritz’s letter can be read here.

Fritz served as chairman, CEO and president. Now, Beth Whited serves as UP’s new president while Mike McCarthy — who had been an independent director on UP’s board — is the Class I’s new chair.