So, for reference, the only cases in the US of "freight" railroads operating passenger trains are:
(1) a small number of class IIIs which are essentially running tourist trains for an extra buck or two
(2) UP operating three lines in Chicago (which are inherited from lines operated by their predecessor) and the occasional tourist train
(3) BNSF operating Sounder in Seattle, Northstar in Minneapolis, and the "BNSF Line" Metra line in Chicago
There's one extra example in Canada: CP operates one GO Transit line in Toronto.
Basically only BNSF has been willing to consider operating new commuter lines. CSX, PanAm, CN, and others have aggressively worked their way out of all their commuter rail contracts. Honestly I expect UP and CP will probably eventually figure out how to end their existing passenger operating contracts too.
Herzog Transit Services has been a willing contract operator of new commuter rail lines, as have Keolis and Bombardier. But they don't take revenue risk. They're we-get-paid-for-our-work contracts, with the commuter rail agency taking on all the risk of dropping ticket sales. (This is the same with the BNSF, UP, and CP contracts.)
This idiotic bidding concept entertains the idea that an operator will take on revenue risk. It's simply not going to happen.
The restriction that the bidder must either own the track or have a contract with the track owner helps further guarantee that there won't be any bids. The track owners (Class Is) don't want to do it themselves and will not contract with anyone. All the long-distance routes actually have multiple track owners, making it even less possible to get a contract. Most of them have multiple Class I track owners; I believe the Southwest Chief and Silver Meteor are the only exceptions, and even they run through multiple commuter rail agencies, and in the case of the Southwest Chief, the Kansas City Terminal.
Edited by neroden, 08 July 2017 - 01:07 PM.