The great “Hoosier State” fiasco

March 9, 2015

Fred Frailey writes in TRAINS Magazine, 8 March 2015:

…Indiana has thrown the Hoosier State to the boneyard. Quickly, the background: The Hoosier runs between Chicago and Indianapolis on the four days of the week that the Chicago-Washington Cardinal does not. The Cardinal is a long-distance train and part of the national system; the Hoosier State is a short-distance train… Indiana decided that if it has to pay for this train, it would find a different operator than Amtrak and try to provide better service at lower cost.

Indiana asked for proposals and chose a Chicago-based company to take over the Hoosier State. For a host of reasons, including the serious illness of the key Indiana government employee, that fell through. Then the state entered talks with Iowa Pacific Holdings, the short line conglomerate that has a long history of operating passenger trains on its affiliates. That seemed to be going well until…

On Friday, Karl Browning, the commissioner of the Indiana Department of Transportation, revealed the existence of a letter written on January 26 to a lawyer representing the state, from Robert Lauby, the Federal Railroad Administration’s chief safety officer. In it, Lauby said FRA considers INDOT to be the “principal entity of record for purposes of ensuring compliance with Federal railroad safety requirements.”

…Scuttlebutt I’ve picked up is that Sun Rail, the new commuter-train authority in Orlando, set this off. It started service but neither Sun Rail nor its contracted service providers are registered as a railroad. So FRA told Sun Rail it had to be the railroad. Now it is going state to state, starting with Indiana, and will say the same thing to every state supporting Amtrak service…

If FRA gets its way, many states will just drop their passenger train support and walk away…

Read the rest of the story in TRAINS

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