Freshwater Railway


You enjoy a convenient, seamless transit experience. We'll worry about the details. If you happen to be curious about those details, you've found the right place.

Freshwater Railway is one name that stands for many services. In fact, several different entities are responsible for the various facets of our business:

Freshwater Railway Corporation pulls it all together. We're the ones who bring you this website. We do the research that determines routes, service levels and fares. We also maintain infrastructure and facilities throughout the network. On top of that all, we orchestrate funding, coordination, purchasing, contracting, marketing and central dispatching for all services flying the Freshwater Railway flag. We ensure integration among multiple service delivery companies so that you see one unified system.

Two private companies, working under three contracts, provide train crews and routine maintenance for the Erie Line, the Capital Line and the Arbor Line. The contracts are bid competitively, and are subject to strict oversight by Freshwater Railway Corporation.

One quasi-private national passenger railroad company provides train crews and routine maintenance for the Michigan Line and the Superior Line. This company has operated long-distance intercity trains on these same tracks since the early 1970s. Contracting with this firm is the ideal way to ensure safety and efficiency in a shared operating environment.

Six private companies, working under ten contracts, provide bus operators and routine maintenance for all Connector bus routes. In most instances, the contractor uses its own buses, amply signed for Freshwater Railway service. On selected contracts, Freshwater Railway furnishes the buses and leases them to the contractor for daily operation.

One local transit authority and one campus transit system provide bus operators and routine maintenance for Relay bus routes in Ann Arbor. The buses wear full Freshwater Railway garb, though they are owned by their respective operators.

H2O Operations Group provides staff for one rail line (the Huron Line) as well as all Detroit-based bus services, including Relay bus and Local Bus. H2O Operations Group is a semi-autonomous non-profit company; it is a wholly owned subsidiary of Freshwater Railway Corporation. This "arms-length" model enables us to fuse the best aspects of private and public management.

Contracted Services

Rail Operations contracts are highly technical, long-term agreements. They can change significantly from one contract period to the next. We post details when we're ready to accept bids and qualifications.

Bus Operations contracts are shorter-term, more straighforward agreements. Two contracts come up for new bidding in a typical year. For quick reference, we are providing some basic attributes of each contract:

Procurement Number Route
Areas Covered Maximum One-Way Trip Distance Peak Vehicle Use Vehicles Supplied By Days of Operation Weekly Active Hours Duration of Contract
CT00-02208 900 Detroit, Windsor 6.7 1 Freshwater Railway Mon-Sun 45.29 2 years
CT00-02471 910 914 917 Adrian, Dundee, Monroe, Toledo 60.6 2 Contractor Mon-Fri 81.60 3 years
CT00-02133 920 Albion, Jackson 20.2 1 Contractor Mon-Fri 18.70 3 years
CT00-00843 925 Detroit Metro Airport (Romulus) 9.2 3 Freshwater Railway Mon-Sun 182.92 2 years
CT00-02400 930 931 Lansing, Howell 38.9 2 Freshwater Railway Mon-Fri 88.65 2 years
CT00-02386 942 Flint, Saginaw 39.9 1 Contractor Mon-Fri 38.50 3 years
CT00-01868 949 Auburn Hills, Lake Orion, Lapeer 28.9 2 Contractor Mon-Sat 103.30 2 years
CT00-02470 960 Detroit, Mt Clemens, Port Huron 70.5 1 Contractor Mon-Fri 10.10 3 years
CT00-01965 981 982 Dundee, Temperance, Sylvania 20.2 2 Contractor Mon-Fri 44.90 3 years
CT00-02052 988 Fenton, Hartland, Whitmore Lake 29.8 2 Contractor Mon-Fri 65.20 2 years

Figures shown reflect current operating arrangements; they are subject to change as contracts are rebid. Active hours equals Platform Time minus garage deadhead – that is, all time when buses are in revenue service, all deadheading between scheduled Freshwater Railway trips, and all layovers between scheduled Freshwater Railway trips.

H2O Operations Group

Train crews on the Huron Line, bus operators for Detroit Relay and Local Bus routes, and maintenance personnel for both of these services are employees of H2O Operations Group. A wholly owned subsidiary of Freshwater Railway Corporation, H2O Operations Group tends to the daily operation of three trainsets and 56 buses.

As our "in-house contractor", H2O Operations Group is on the forefront of innovative service delivery techniques. H2O staff are constantly testing ways to contain costs and improve quality. As part of the Freshwater Railway family, H2O Operations Group shares in our beliefs about good management. In practice, it means that hourly staff aren't merely "worker bees" – they are strategic partners in business development.

We are proud to take a direct stake in operations. As our system matures, keeping our feet in the field will serve us well. A little insight about H2O Operation Group's assets:


H2O Operations Group employs 188 dedicated professionals. They bring a wide variety of experience and ideas – they are all part of our team effort.

Operators and mechanics are represented by TOPO, an independent, non-traditional bargaining unit that focuses on cooperation, sustainability, professional growth and high morale.


H2O Operations Group shares a train fleet with other operators. Regardless of operator, all trains include advanced systems and inviting amenities.

The bus fleet consists of 36 regular 40-foot hybrid-electric transit buses and 20 articulated 60-foot hybrid-electric transit buses. All buses are built in Quebec and New York with certain components from Michigan. Buses feature sleek curves, wide doors, easy wheelchair access, climate control, bright colors, spacious interiors and large untinted windows.


Rail layover facilities in Port Huron and Richmond accommodate Huron Line trains during off-peak hours. Our central maintenance facility near Michigan Central Station supports these trains, as well as equipment from other rail lines.

Clark Street Division is the heart of the bus operation. It's a state-of-the-art, LEED Gold certified facility with maintenance and storage for up to 150 buses. Room to grow!

Further technical information is available:


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