Bids for potential new Hoosier State operator?

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edjbox

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Heard recently that IDOT and Hoosier State Partners are looking for a new operator to run and improve the existing Hoosier State service.

Question is, what equipment will they be using? How will this work? How would reservations work?
 

MrFSS

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Heard recently that IDOT and Hoosier State Partners are looking for a new operator to run and improve the existing Hoosier State service.

Question is, what equipment will they be using? How will this work? How would reservations work?
Where did you hear it?
 

afigg

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I saw the news about the IN DOT RFP for a Hoosier State operator on trainorders. Link to the INDOT RFP page.

Link to the 19 page RFP summary. There is much to discuss about the RFP and whether someone will submit a viable bid given the constraints for the Hoosier State. There is info in the RFP about Amtrak intent to reroute the Cardinal and HS in Chicago if they can. Excerpt from the start of the RFP:

The purpose of this Request for Proposals (RFP) is to obtain competitive bids, which, it is intended, will lead to selection by the State of Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) and Hoosier State Partners: Tippecanoe County, Beech Grove, City of Crawfordsville, City of Rensselaer, City of Lafayette, City of West Lafayette, City of Indianapolis, of an entity (or entities) to operate Hoosier State Intercity Passenger Rail Service (Hoosier State Service) in a way which optimizes the service.

The State of Indiana intends to make the selection so that contractor may begin its operations of Hoosier State Service when INDOTs current agreement with Amtrak expires, on September 30, 2014. Should additional time be required, INDOTs current agreement with Amtrak may be extended through January 31, 2015 (by mutual written agreement of the parties).

INDOT and Hoosier State Partners desire that the competitively-selected contractor not only reduce the cost of operating Hoosier State, but also work with INDOT and Hoosier State Partners to improve Hoosier State operations, so as to attract higher ridership and bring in increased revenues, thereby further reducing costs.
With the implementation of the state supported corridor services under the 2008 PRIIA act, now it is going to get interesting to see how it plays out.
 

MikefromCrete

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Seeing that this is just a request for bids, we don't know about equipment, ticket sales, etc. I can't imagine anybody but Amtrak jumping at this. CSX would also have a say in another operator running over its railroad. There are a number of private operations that run commuter trains systems under government contracts, but I don't see much profit (Ha!) in a single train operation.
 
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zephyr17

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I read it over, and it implied that the operator, if not Amtrak, would have to make their own arrangements for trackage rights. If CSX is even willing, they would very likely charge market rates for the slot. That would probably knock most other operators out of the running right there.

This will be interesting.
 

Bob Dylan

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Mike makes a great point about a single train route making a profit! Since Indiana's politicians seem to be anti-rail I really can't see any business person or company interested in taking over this route, it would be a money pit!
 
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neroden

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Nobody will submit a bid.

...actually, I'll amend that. A number of operators may submit speculative bids of the form of "IF Indiana puts $100 million into capital improvements, THEN we will run operations". Nobody's going to submit a bid on the terms which the crazy state government is looking for.
 
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jis

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Indiana will have to find the rolling stock to run the train too. They are not like North Carolina or California that have their own fleet. So someone who can bring cars and locomotives to the table will have to be involved. Should be interesting to see how it plays out. It could just be a gambit on the part of Indiana to abandon it because it comes out to be too expensive, unless an outfit like Iowa Pacific decides take a bath to make a point, like their claim that they can run the Heartland Flyer without any subsidy!

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PRR 60

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Indiana will have to find the rolling stock to run the train too. They are not like North Carolina or California that have their own fleet. So someone who can bring cars and locomotives to the table will have to be involved. Should be interesting to see how it plays out. It could just be a gambit on the part of Indiana to abandon it because it comes out to be too expensive, unless an outfit like Iowa Pacific decides take a bath to make a point, like their claim that they can run the Heartland Flyer without any subsidy!

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The PRIIA has the following clause (217):

Access to Amtrak Equipment and Services: States wishing to use operators other than Amtrak for the provision of state-supported services shall have access, for reasonable compensation and subject to limitations to preserve current Amtrak services, to Amtrak facilities and equipment for the purpose of operating that particular route.
The STB is to resolve disputes concerning "reasonable compensation."
 
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tomfuller

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Indiana will have to find the rolling stock to run the train too. They are not like North Carolina or California that have their own fleet. So someone who can bring cars and locomotives to the table will have to be involved. Should be interesting to see how it plays out. It could just be a gambit on the part of Indiana to abandon it because it comes out to be too expensive, unless an outfit like Iowa Pacific decides take a bath to make a point, like their claim that they can run the Heartland Flyer without any subsidy!

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I think there's a Talgo sitting in Wisconsin that they didn't want to pay for. I think Oregon is happy with their investment in the future.
 

Steve4031

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The talgo would still need a maintenance facility. And a contract for maintaining the train. There are two sets iirc. I don't think talgo will bother with Indiana after getting burned in Wisconsin.
 

tomfuller

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Strictly Cash on Delivery - Certified check signed by the Indiana State Treasurer. Why can't it be maintained in Chicago before it returns to Indianapolis?
 

afigg

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For rolling stock, if Indiana was willing to commit state capital funds, Indiana could join the Midwest consortium and order 6 to 8 corridor bi-level cars exercising part of the option on the contract with Nippon-Sharyo. Under the terms of the PRIIA act, lease Horizons until 2017 or whenever the new cars are delivered. Although if IN DOT were to contract the HS out to an private vendor, IMO we can anticipate Amtrak will make an appearance of cooperating, but will put up obstacles on leasing the Horizons and sharing facilities.

In the RFP, I don't see IN making any commitments to providing capital funds for improvements to the route. In all the other state or local government supported train services (in the USA) that have contracted out to a private operator that I can think of, there is or was capital improvement funding to upgrade the tracks, stations, improve the service over time. The capital improvements are not all done at once or before service starts, but there is a sustained program.

So how serious is IN DOT and the state leadership about the effort to find a private operator for the HS? The proposal are due on April 29 which is not a lot of time to access the situation (CSX track fees, rolling stock), put together the bid and respond. What happens if INDOT does not receive any viable proposals that cut costs or proposals that don't also include the vendor asking for capital funding to make the service more competitive? Who is going to want to run a 4 or 7 day a week single slow train a day service which will be dependent on Amtrak for maintenance, access to CUS.

If INDOT does not get viable proposals, do they claim that, hey, we tried to find a private operator and that Amtrak, the national train operator, is too expensive? With the political excuse in hand that no one wants to run the HS other than Amtrak, INDOT could allow the contract with Amtrak to expire on September 30, 2014 and the Hoosier State goes away. The HS may have only gotten a 1 year reprieve.
 

Ryan

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Strictly Cash on Delivery - Certified check signed by the Indiana State Treasurer. Why can't it be maintained in Chicago before it returns to Indianapolis?
Because Chicago also has no facility for Talgo maintenance.
 

seat38a

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Well I think ultimately its going to come down to: Will the new operator be able to get trackage rights. The host railroads by law have to work with Amtrak, nut not the other private operators. I can see private operators on tracks owned by the municipality but not if it involves the the private freight companies.
 

7deuceman

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Does the reference to the subject of "Replying to bids for potential new Hoosier State operator?" mean that the contemplation of a daily Amtrak Cardinal service to/from New York Penn - Chicago is no longer viable or being discussed?

I was looking forward to seeing a cool dome car on the train between DC and Chicago:

www.Amtrak.com/ccurl/536//878/PRIIA-210-Cardinal-PIP.pdf
 
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tomfuller

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Strictly Cash on Delivery - Certified check signed by the Indiana State Treasurer. Why can't it be maintained in Chicago before it returns to Indianapolis?
Because Chicago also has no facility for Talgo maintenance.On the days that the Cardinal runs, they could go on a Hiawatha run to where they were manufactured. Does Oregon or Washington have a facility dedicated to Talgos?
 

Eric S

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There is no maintenance facility for Talgo equipment in Chicago or Milwaukee. Those plans, with a facility in either Madison or Milwaukee, got caught up in the whole mess that is the Wisconsin Talgos.
 

afigg

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Does the reference to the subject of "Replying to bids for potential new Hoosier State operator?" mean that the contemplation of a daily Amtrak Cardinal service to/from New York Penn - Chicago is no longer viable or being discussed?

I was looking forward to seeing a cool dome car on the train between DC and Chicago:
A daily Cardinal service is not directly coupled to the possibility of a separate operator for the Hoosier State, but there are some considerations and interactions.

If Amtrak were to continue to be subsidized by IN to run the Hoosier State 4 days a week on the Cardinal schedule, that would provide a perverse incentive to keep the Cardinal 3 days a week, although WV and VA would continue to seek a daily Cardinal service. However, if Amtrak were to be contracted by IN to run a daily HS on a different schedule, designed to better meet the needs of Indianapolis to Chicago travel, that would open the way for a daily Cardinal to provide 2 trains a day service between IND and CHI.

On the other hand, if IN were to select a different operator to run the HS State as a daily service using leased Amtrak equipment, that would decouple the 2 services. But it also would provide Amtrak an incentive to lower their Cardinal IND-CHI prices to undercut the new competition, so they could try to get the contract back when it comes up for renewal. And, yes, Amtrak would be drawing on their federal operating subsidy to make up the increased losses. But that could get rather politically sticky and might tick off IN officials.

There is a potential for conflicts of interest on any state supported corridor service that is shared with an Amtrak LD train if the corridor service is turned over to a different operator. The Amtrak LD train and the new operator would be in competition for passengers and revenue, so there could be actions to hinder or undercut the other guy while denying they are doing so. It could get quite interesting if some state corridors do get turned over to a private operator.

The ideal outcome for Amtrak would be for IN to contract Amtrak to run a daily HS and, just as important, initiate a multi-year capital improvement program for the tracks and stations in IN to reduce the HS trip time and improve the reliability. The HS study report that was completed last September identified $231 million in improvements that would eventually cut trip time by about 30 minutes in Indiana. That would obviously also benefit the Cardinal.

One of the major obstacles to a daily Cardinal service is the Buckingham Branch railroad in Virginia. VA is providing a fair amount of funds to BBRR through its Short Line Preservation fund for track maintenance & repair, signal upgrades, and a long new siding project (for the westbound CSX coal trains). The schedule for the completion of the BBRR improvements is not clear as the funding has been provided in annual increments, but eventually the BBRR will be better able to accomodate a daily Cardinal. Whether that along with delivery of the new Viewliners would be enough to upgrade the Cardinal to daily service is an open question.
 

edjbox

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One suggestion for the Cardinal is for the routing between Culpepper and Charlottesville to be changed with an addition of a new switch that connects the Norfolk Southern line station platform to the Buckingham Branch line to the west. The NS line tends to be more reliable and faster than the BB line as there are patches where the BB line has a 30 mph speed limit approaching Charlottesville.
 

Ryan

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We had an in-depth discussion about that at some point in the past. The consensus is that there really isn't enough space to make that happen.
 

Anderson

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The consensus I recall was that there was barely enough room as it was...but that while it worked on paper, the problem was that (A) you'd clip the corner pretty badly, (B) you'd be blocking both tracks at once, and © spending money to do that after sorting out the BBRR was an inefficient use of cash.
 

jis

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One suggestion for the Cardinal is for the routing between Culpepper and Charlottesville to be changed with an addition of a new switch that connects the Norfolk Southern line station platform to the Buckingham Branch line to the west. The NS line tends to be more reliable and faster than the BB line as there are patches where the BB line has a 30 mph speed limit approaching Charlottesville.
That is a mighty expensive proposition to just save 15 to 20 mins on an awfully slow schedule. I would rather that the money for doing so were used for something more useful. Since BBBR trackage is in the process of getting fixed to chop off some 10 ins on that run anyway, I think this is not an idea worth pursuing. I hope that it is not given any serious consideration for that reason.
 

afigg

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The consensus I recall was that there was barely enough room as it was...but that while it worked on paper, the problem was that (A) you'd clip the corner pretty badly, (B) you'd be blocking both tracks at once, and © spending money to do that after sorting out the BBRR was an inefficient use of cash.
If one look at the tracks at CVS with Google Earth, there is little to no room for a connecting track without cutting into the building to the north. Then there is the bridge nearby over the NS tracks. The track crossover is so close to the NS platform at the CVS station, it might be impossible for the Cardinal to use the NS platform and crossover to the BBRR/CSX track without a major track reconfiguration and thus an expensive project. Which would be difficult to justify as it would have little to no benefit for freight rail.

So VA DRPT is putting much of the Shortline Preservation Program funding, roughly $4 to $5 million a year, into maintenance, repair, upgrade projects for the Buckingham Branch to get it into a state of good repair for freight train and traffic to the ports in Hampton Roads. There is obviously a secondary agenda of helping the Cardinal as it provides useful passenger service for Virginia, but it appears to be a secondary purpose.

The situation with the 4 day a week Hoosier State and 3 day a week Cardinal is unique. The requirement that the HS receive state subsidies makes for a complicated situation with regards to running a daily Cardinal service. if Amtrak were to announce next week that the Cardinal would be upgraded to daily service in 2015 once the bulk of new Viewliners were delivered, that would remove the incentive for IN to subsidize the HS and provide capital funds for track improvements. The situation gets more complicated with INDOT actively seeking for someone else to operate the HS.

With the RFPs due on April 29, should not have to wait that long to find out how many companies, if any, submitted proposals to run the HS.
 
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