INDOT Train Bites the Dust

Amtrak is taking over the Hoosier State train starting March 1.

On Monday, the Indiana Department of Transportation announced its contract with Iowa Pacific Holdings, which has operated the Hoosier State train since July 2015, would only remain in effect until the end of February.

INDOT said Iowa Pacific wanted more money than was agreed upon in its contract.

“They were looking for a minimum monthly subsidy that was outside the budget we had,” INDOT spokesman Will Wingfield said. “Even under the existing contracts, their needs were beyond what we had budgeted.”

To date, INDOT has paid $500,000 to Iowa Pacific to provide on-board service, marketing and equipment for the Hoosier State and $3.9 million to Amtrak to run the actual train. It agreed to pay Iowa Pacific an additional $300,000 to operate the train through the end of February.

“It should be said we signed contracts in good faith with Iowa Pacific that was through the end of June, and then they came to us and said they we’re unable to continue under those contracts,” Wingfield said.

INDOT didn’t indicate what would happen to the Hoosier State if it’s unable to find a long-term replacement for Amtrak.

In a reply to a customer’s question on Facebook, Iowa Pacific wrote that it was “unable to continue providing passenger train equipment and on-board services under the terms of its existing contract for the Hoosier State.”

In a separate Facebook post, Iowa Pacific President Ed Ellis said INDOT was transitioning to “a different service model.”

INDOT’s two-year contract with Iowa Pacific was supposed to run until June 30. The contract included the option of a four-year extension.

Iowa Pacific introduced a host of amenities to the Hoosier State — including an on-board chef, wifi and dome-car seating — that led to increased ridership on the line.

While Ellis said Iowa Pacific demonstrated “that service enhancements can drive improvements in customer satisfaction, revenue and ridership,” the train’s on-time performance was lacking. On numerous occasions, the train made it to its destination hours late, and sometimes not at all.

INDOT said it’s working on a plan to ensure amenities including wifi and business-class seating are retained on the Hoosier State.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said a major change is that Amtrak’s equipment will run on the Hoosier State line, not Iowa Pacific’s.

“We want it to be seamless, and we don’t want any disruptions in operations,” he said.

The Hoosier State runs four days per week between Indianapolis and Chicago, with stops in Crawfordsville, Lafayette, Rensselaer and Dyer. The other three days per week, Amtrak’s long-distance Cardinal train makes those stops.

The Hoosier State is funded by INDOT, Lafayette, West Lafayette, Tippecanoe County, Crawfordsville and Rensselaer.

Maybe Indiana had better start thinking of hopping on board the planned Louisville to Chicago HYPERLOOP? It will run right thru Indianapolis  to Gary  where passengers will change to the South Shore Railroad.

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