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With a new administration in D.C., it's time to think outside of the box because passenger rail's survival just may depend on it

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Hoosier State bidding is complete

Corridor Capital narrowly beat out Iowa Pacific to be the new contractor of the Hoosier State. Contractor, not operator! That is important because Amtrak will continue to run the train so that's a bit of a bummer for any of us who want to see multiple operators running passenger service.

The tentative plan is for the Hoosier State to be moved to another timeslot. If that happens, then we will be talking about at least one additional frequency that will become multiple--adding to an already untenable situation in Chicago. As Corridor Capital's James Coston once said: "Chicago Union Station is beyond obsolete. It has crowd-control and user-friendliness problems that are on the brink of becoming public-safety and public-health problems." This is another reason why I believe that Indiana only got its feet wet as opposed to taking the full plunge that could still happen out west with the Cascades. I have advocated that major cities like Chicago use their other major train stations for more than just commuter service for several years because as more states and companies express interest in providing additional service, primary stations that are currently home to Amtrak will become overcrowded and competitors will need to find other places to serve their passengers.

As to where this will leave Amtrak, it will have some extra Horizon Cars left over. With Indiana using equipment from Railplan International, it should be easier for neighboring Illinois to use the Horizons for the revived Black Hawk route next year. Assuming that the Hoosier State no longer runs on the same timeslot as the Cardinal, Amtrak would have to either:

  1. operate #50 an hour earlier out of Chicago so it can arrive into Indianapolis at 22:00. This would allow the operator enough time to cut off the excess cars (#51 is currently in Indy from 4:57 to 6:00) and recover a bit before the eastbound train continues on its current schedule east of Indianapolis
  2. continue to run trains on #850 and #851's current times. The only difference is that the two trains would be taken out of the reservations system as these would now be nonstop between the two cities 
  3. operate #50 an hour later at all stops


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