From The Northwest Indiana Times:
The Indiana Department of Transportation has received four proposals to provide services for the Hoosier State Amtrak route between Chicago and Indianapolis.
The proposals were received in response to an open-ended request for proposals issued in early April by INDOT and seven communities that are helping subsidize the four-day per week Amtrak passenger train.
“It is exciting and interesting to receive four proposals that look at the Hoosier State passenger rail service in different ways,” said INDOT chief of staff Troy Woodruff. “This private sector interest opens the door for other states and regions that are supporting passenger rail service.”
The goal of the solicitation is to increase the number of passengers on the train and decrease operating costs by opening the operation of the train to competition from private operators in addition to Amtrak, according to INDOT.
One of those responding to the request was Iowa Pacific Holdings Inc., a company that operates a number of specialty passenger railroads including the Pullman Rail Journeys between Chicago and New Orleans.
Others submitting proposals were Corridor Capital LLC, of Los Angeles; Railmark Holdings Inc., of Wixom, Mich.; and Herzog Transit Services Inc., of Irving, Texas teaming with Passenger Transportation Specialists Inc., of Oklahoma City, Okla.
As the current provider of the service, Amtrak previously submitted its own proposal for 2014-2015, according to INDOT.
INDOT hopes to select a finalist by this summer and begin negotiations that could lead to some sort of public-private partnership, according to INDOT spokesman Will Wingfield.
INDOT was not divulging the contents of the proposals or even their thrusts on Monday. 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.
The Hoosier State stops in Dyer and Rensselaer locally. Another Amtrak train operates on the route three days per week and proceeds on from Indianapolis.
INDOT and participating local communities are paying a $2.7 million subsidy to Amtrak to keep the Hoosier State running through this fall. That subsidy came about as a result of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act, which ended federal support of certain Amtrak routes of less than 750 miles.
INDOT said no disruption in the current service is expected as a result of issuing the request for proposals and tickets can still be bought for the Hoosier State through Amtrak.