Dispute could derail Colorado Ski Train revival
Aspen, CO Colorado
DENVER – A company hoping to revive Colorado’s Ski Train is suing Amtrak for making “unforeseen demands” that would jeopardize the passenger train service scheduled to start Sunday.
The company filed a breach-of-contract lawsuit and was seeking a temporary restraining order so the service could still run. A hearing was scheduled Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Denver.
The popular Ski Train from Denver to the Winter Park ski area shut down last year after 69 seasons and after the Anschutz Co. sold the train’s cars.
Chicago-based Iowa Pacific Holdings LLC started negotiating with the track’s owner, Union Pacific Railroad, so a new service could use the same route. It was negotiating with Amtrak for crews.
Amtrak said Tuesday that talks were at an impasse over liability and how many engineers and conductors Amtrak could supply without affecting its own operations. Amtrak also said locomotives and passenger cars that Iowa Pacific wanted to use failed a federal safety inspection.
Iowa Pacific said it has followed all requirements of the Federal Railroad Administration and was in the process of inspections when talks with Amtrak stalled. It said Amtrak imposed new contract liability and insurance requirements, beyond those typically included in charter train contracts with Amtrak.
Rather than being covered as an additionally insured party on Iowa Pacific’s insurance, Amtrak wanted to be directly insured, with $200 million of coverage, Iowa Pacific President Ed Ellis said. He estimated that would cost Iowa Pacific an extra $2 million, the equivalent of about 40,000 last-minute coach fares on Ski Train.
About 13,000 reservations have been made for the train through March.
Amtrak responded in court documents that the charter train contracts Iowa Pacific mentioned were for one-time or otherwise limited charters, not a regular service like Ski Train.
The Ski Train started selling tickets in November, though Ellis said at the time that it was awaiting final approval from Amtrak.
The train plans to exchange or refund tickets if it has to delay or cancel its season.
Iowa Pacific says Amtrak is essentially its only option for staffing the train.
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