Ex-company official says Indiana agency ignored problems with possible passenger line operator

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LAFAYETTE, Indiana — A former executive with a company once in the running to manage an Amtrak line between Indianapolis and Chicago says a state agency ignored problems with the private company's approach, including its lack of financing for its proposal to operate the line.

Mark Singer, who was Corridor Capital's vice president of strategic planning from February until September, said the company lacked financing and experience and didn't have rail cars ready to go to take over the Hoosier State line.

He said the company's initial proposal to the Indiana Department of Transportation did not indicate that the company needed startup funds.

"I was shocked to find out his own investors were not going to pony up ... to the table to finance this operation," Singer told the Journal & Courier (http://on.jconline.com/1ySnneu ). "The state was going to pay $1.6 million to rehab equipment they were only going to be leasing for two years."

He said state would have paid an additional $1 million in annual lease payments.

Fritz Plous, Corridor Capital's vice president of corporate communication, said the question of "who writes the checks had not been all worked out" during the company's negotiations with Indiana officials.

"The customer has to pay," he said. "I don't know if that proviso is what led to the delay or dropping of the process."

Corridor Capital began contract talks last summer with INDOT to provide passenger rail cars, marketing and other services on the Hoosier State line after the state's contract with Amtrak ends in January.

INDOT broke off negotiations with Corridor Capital this month, offering no reasons for ending the negotiations it had started in late June.

The Hoosier State line, which runs four days a week between Indianapolis and Chicago, was among the passenger rail routes less than 750 miles long that lost federal funding last year under legislation Congress passed in 2008.

INDOT and seven local partners, including the cities of Indianapolis, Lafayette and Crawfordsville, agreed to pay Amtrak a $2.7 million subsidy to keep that line running until October, and those partners are now funding the line through Jan. 31 under a four-month extension.

Transportation department spokesman Will Wingfield said the complex negotiations involve two federal agencies, the state, a private company and communities served by the line and it's still a work in progress.

"At this point, our discussions with Amtrak are key," he said. "We're looking for them to continue as operator."


Information from: Journal and Courier, http://www.jconline.com

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