Bids for potential new Hoosier State operator?

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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.
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.
I would not be surprised if Iowa Pacific shows up with a bid of some sort. I'd actually be more surprised if they didn't show up with something.
 

PRR 60

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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?
Wisconsin asked Amtrak to maintain the Talgo sets in Chicago. Amtrak, for good reason, refused. There is no reason to assume that they would agree to do the work for Indiana.
 

rickycourtney

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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?
Wisconsin asked Amtrak to maintain the Talgo sets in Chicago. Amtrak, for good reason, refused. There is no reason to assume that they would agree to do the work for Indiana.
I was under the impression that Talgo built these trainsets with the stipulation that they were going to maintain them in their shops. I consider it the dirty little secret of these Talgo trainsets. They work well up here in the geographically isolated Pacific Northwest... but it never made a whole lot of sense that these trains had to be maintained by Talgo at their shops in Wisconsin, when Amtrak already has a huge maintenance operation in Chicago. Wisconsin should have got onboard with the other Midwestern states and bought the California style bi-level cars.

Back to the RFP... I'm a big believer in the power of the free market. I think that making Amtrak work to keep this contract is a good thing. I also think it's good that Indiana is being forced to look at the cost of potential improvements to this long neglected line.

I also wouldn't be surprised if Washington and Oregon put out a RFP for the Cascades. I've heard BNSF floated as a potential competitor. They already have experience running the Sounder commuter rail trains and they have a distinct advantage when it comes to negotiating for track rights.

Food for thought on this conversation...
 

Bob Dylan

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Keep in mind that a Talgo Representative (Mechanic) Rides on every Talgo Consist in the NW, I'm not aware that any other Manufacturer anywhere has to have a Specialist ride their Cars in case/when things go wrong! THis has to be a Big Expense that Amtrak or the States wouldnt want to Pay, they are actually trying to cut OBS and Employees during the Current on-going Bean Counter Days!
 
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Paulus

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Keep in mind that a Talgo Representative (Mechanic) Rides on every Talgo Consist in the NW, I'm not aware that any other Manufacturer anywhere has to have a Specialist ride their Cars in case/when things go wrong! THis has to be a Big Expense that Amtrak or the States wouldnt want to Pay, they are actually trying to cut OBS and Employees during the Current on-going Bean Counter Days!
It's a fairly good maintenance strategy actually and helps account for the significantly better reliability of the Talgo fleet.
 

jis

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As long as Talgo is gracious enough to eat the cost to cover for the inherent lack of reliability of their technology, I am all for it. :p
 

The Davy Crockett

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I would not be surprised if Iowa Pacific shows up with a bid of some sort. I'd actually be more surprised if they didn't show up with something.
And, as it turns out, according to Trains Newswire, Ellis says that Iowa Pacific is in fact "evaluating" things in order to decide if they will place a bid, as Indiana is being

"innovative in their approach."
Seems like a pretty steep climb to me though, given the number of freight railroads, plus Metra, whose tracks the HS runs over.
 

Ryan

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"innovative in their approach"

Sounds like a polite way of saying "those guys are absolutely insane".
 

afigg

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"innovative in their approach"

Sounds like a polite way of saying "those guys are absolutely insane".
Yea, I'm also wondering what the heck is "innovative in their approach" in the INDOT RFP. It is a rather open RFP asking for ideas or proposals with the state not offering to put up any capital funding for rolling stock, track improvements. Oh, the bidders must show the expected access cost to operate over CSX, CN, UP, etc. I guess that could be categorize as innovative for a state support corridor service. INDOT: you guys figure it out and negotiate with the freight railroads. :huh:
 

neroden

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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.
There's plenty of room for a connection, though I think some major grading would be involved. Much more problematic is access to the Charlottesville platform, as you note.

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.
If you were going to do an expensive project at Charlottesville, this is the thing to do:Shift all the NS tracks south under the Main St. bridge (eliminating the current road under the bridge), and build a passenger siding on the *north* side, with a high platform.

So, the existing north-side track becomes the high platform; the existing south side track becomes Amtrak's siding; the existing platform becomes NS's north track; the parking lot and road becomes NS's south track. There is probably also room for another south-side siding and platform in the future.

This *would* have benefits for freight. There is no doubt this would be an enormous project though; I could only see this being done if the number of NE Regionals gong through Charlottesville starts increasing a lot.
 

The Davy Crockett

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I think the money would be better spent elsewhere than reconfiguring the tracks around CVS. The cost great, the benefits not, as it seems that most delays and lost time on the BB are west of CVS, not east. Sure it would speed things up, but there is already okay service to CVS over the NS.

Personally I think the scenery between Orange (the junction between the BB and NS) and CVS on the BB is great, and would miss it if there was a reroute.
 

Ryan

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I just noticed something interesting here. From the "Pullman Cheaper then Amtrak" thread:

In case people missed the news, Iowa Pacific Holdings, which operates Pullman Rail Journeys, has sold 80% of the company to an investor. What this means for the Pullman service and Iowa Pacific efforts to get into the passenger rail service business remains to be seen.

Fred Frailey of Trains Magazine has a column on the buyout of IPH with comments from Ed Ellis, the founder of IPH: The Ed Ellis Story (continued). The investment may mean more capital for expansion of the Pullman service, but a major outside investor is going to expect to get a return on his investment.
Buried in the middle:

“How does this affect us? A solid financial underfooting is important. The passenger businesses we operate are very important to us, too. We do things that are transformational. Right now we are seeking to run the Hoosier State passenger train for the state of Indiana. If we succeed, it will have significant consequences for other states.
It'll be very interesting to see how this plays out.
 

jis

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Buried in the middle:

“How does this affect us? A solid financial underfooting is important. The passenger businesses we operate are very important to us, too. We do things that are transformational. Right now we are seeking to run the Hoosier State passenger train for the state of Indiana. If we succeed, it will have significant consequences for other states.
It'll be very interesting to see how this plays out.
Incidentally they are also planning to run the Pullman Service on the Cardinal.
 

Ryan

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Is there anything more firm on that? This article didn't make it sound like a done deal.

We would like to run a Pullman service between Chicago and New York, perhaps using the Cardinal.
 

The Davy Crockett

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I just noticed something interesting here. From the "Pullman Cheaper then Amtrak" thread:

In case people missed the news, Iowa Pacific Holdings, which operates Pullman Rail Journeys, has sold 80% of the company to an investor. What this means for the Pullman service and Iowa Pacific efforts to get into the passenger rail service business remains to be seen.

Fred Frailey of Trains Magazine has a column on the buyout of IPH with comments from Ed Ellis, the founder of IPH: The Ed Ellis Story (continued). The investment may mean more capital for expansion of the Pullman service, but a major outside investor is going to expect to get a return on his investment.
Buried in the middle:

“How does this affect us? A solid financial underfooting is important. The passenger businesses we operate are very important to us, too. We do things that are transformational. Right now we are seeking to run the Hoosier State passenger train for the state of Indiana. If we succeed, it will have significant consequences for other states.
It'll be very interesting to see how this plays out.
Nice find, both of you. :hi:

It will be interesting.

But Sam Zell? Really? :unsure:
 

MikefromCrete

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Sam Zell completely wrecked the Chicago Tribune Co. He's the last guy I would want to having controlling 80 percent of my business.
 

rickycourtney

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According to the The Times of Northwest Indiana the bids are in.

Amtrak has placed a bid along with Iowa Pacific, Corridor Capital, Railmark Holdings, and a joint venture of Herzog Transit Services and Passenger Transportation Specialists.

Wanted to point out a few things...

Herzog Transit Services operates several commuter railroads here in the US including Altamont Corridor Express, New Mexico Rail Runner Express and Trinity Railway Express. The company also operates Caltrain and Coaster in a joint venture with Stagecoach Group.

Also, Corridor Capital is the owner of 50 Santa Fe Hi-Levels (the same model as the Pacific Parlour cars and the predecessor of the Superliner). They seem to pop up anytime a railroad needs equipment...
 
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MikefromCrete

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This will be very interesting to see if any one other than Amtrak gets the winning bid. I imagine CSX will have something to say about it. Corridor Capitol has pitched those high-levels to IDOT and MDOT without any success. Maybe INDOT will take the bait.
 
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Eric S

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The 4 day/week nature of the HS makes this a rather odd service for anyone other than Amtrak to operate. Will certainly be curious to see how this shakes out.
 

rickycourtney

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I wonder if any of the bidders proposed "uncoupling" the Hoosier State from the Cardinal... running it as a 7 day a week service on a different (and presumably better) schedule.
 

afigg

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This will be very interesting to see if any one other than Amtrak gets the winning bid. I imagine CSX will have something to say about it. Corridor Capitol has pitched those high-levels to IDOT and MDOT without any success. Maybe INDOT will take the bait.
They also offered the Sante Fe high-levels to All Aboard Florida for the Miami to Orlando service. From what I can tell, they have offered them to a lot of agencies and potential users without any success so far. Most state agencies or someone intending to start a competitive train service such as AAF are simply not going to be interested in 1950s vintage equipment. INDOT with a single 79 mph max speed corridor and no official plans for higher speeds may be interested, but I doubt it.

Will have to see if INDOT releases a bid technical review report on the proposals.
 

neroden

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The next question is how many of the proposals will actually be deemed *viable*. (These are just proposals, not bids.)

I'm guessing everything but Amtrak will be rejected due to inability to negotiate a path into Chicago with the Class Is. Seriously, Amtrak is the only operator with the ability to wangle a route from Dyer to Chicago.

In short, this is going to turn out to be a goofy sideshow and when it's over we'll be back pretty close to where we started. INDOT will spend several years relearning something which we all know, and which every state DOT which is serious about passenger rail knows by now: it's not the trains which are the hard part, it's the tracks.

---

Well, I forgot something: Indiana was considering proposals other than actual operations.

Iowa Pacific and Herzog may be making actual "operations" proposals. But Herzog has no experience dealing with Class Is; Herzog contracts to operate state-owned lines. I suppose that there's an outside chance that Iowa Pacific could pull off the negotiations with UP and CSX.

The request put out by the state in early April allowed bidders to submit proposals for everything from operating the train and route in its entirety to simply providing services on the trains like Wi-Fi or food and beverage.
So. Suppose that we assume that any proposal which actually proposes to operate the route is DOA, due to the aforementioned problem of negotiating with CSX, UP, Metra, and perhaps CN and others.
Amtrak will not permit the proposers to offer food and beverage as it will create union troubles. Amtrak is already providing WiFi. So such small proposals are also DOA.

PTS is a bus company. It's possible that PTS is proposing some sort of improved coordinated Thruway bus service. This is quite possibly viable, Amtrak would probably agree to it, and probably Indiana would go for it. More depressingly, this being Indiana, the proposal might be to completely bustitute the route.

The most likely remaining proposal is simply to sell or lease some railcars to Indiana, and perhaps to maintain them. With Amtrak continuing to run operations, entirely. Amtrak has been OK with such deals in the past, and it does free up rolling stock which is in short supply. This is probably what Corridor Capital is proposing. Maybe Indiana will bite.

---

Railmark is an interesting source of proposals. Judging by their business, perhaps the most likely proposal they could make would be:

- state of Indiana purchases track from CSX

- Railmark maintains it for much faster speeds than currently

That would be kind of awesome, but I sadly doubt Indiana would go for it.
 
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afigg

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Trains Magazine has a short news wire story on the bids submitted to INDOT, but it is behind a paywall for subscribers. Link for those with access.

The Trains Mag report provides more information on Iowa Pacific's proposal which to have the HS operate as an Amtrak train with Amtrak crews, with "Iowa Pacific providing other elements of the service". I read that as IP would provide their rolling stock in place of the Horizons and the HS would continue as a 4 day a week train. But how much money would that save?
 
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