AN AGREEMENT securing Amtrak’s continued operation of three Chicago ’corridor’ services was announced on January 14. Illinois Department of Transportation had been threatening to invite open tenders for the State House to St Louis, Illini to Carbondale and Illinois Zephyr to Quincy, in an effort to lower the state’s subsidy payments.
Amtrak said that it had been extremely aggressive in its efforts to retain the franchise and has made a number of concessions to win what it called ’an innovative, multi-year package’.
Subject to annual appropriations from the state legislature, Illinois will pay US$7m in 1997-98, US$7·55m in 1998-99 and US$7·95m in 1999-2000, with Amtrak bearing the risk of any losses. The operator has promised to enhance service levels, improve productivity and develop a pricing structure affordable to Illinois and other states wishing to support services.
Amtrak will operate the six return trips under parameters outlined by Illinois DOT including timings, scheduling and minimum seating capacity on each train. Food service must also be provided. Penalties will be payable if a train departs from an originating point more than 30min late or if departures from points of origin are less than 99% on time annually.