Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Puebla-Cholula tourist train proves too costly, will shut down Jan. 1

The tourist train that runs between Puebla City and Cholula – a nearby “magical town” that is home to the world’s largest pyramid – is not economically viable and will not operate in 2022, the state government said.

Transport official Juan Carlos Moreno Valle told a press conference Thursday that the operation and maintenance of the two trains and tracks costs 58.4 million pesos (US $2.8 million) annually.

The cost on a per-passenger basis is 1,542 pesos (US $75) but a ticket costs just 60 pesos (US $3) for tourists and 30 pesos for locals. Moreno said that 1.45 million passengers per year are needed to cover costs but the highest ridership since the 1.57-billion-peso (US $76.1 million) train service began operations in 2017 was just over 161,000 in 2019.

“… We can categorically say that [the train] is not economically viable,” he said, adding that it hasn’t provided a significant boost to tourism and has not been overly popular among locals.

Puebla Governor Miguel Barbosa first announced in November that the train wouldn’t operate next year.

The service runs 17 kilometers between central Puebla city and Cholula with no intermediate stops, meaning that it is of no use to people who want to go somewhere between the two locations. Moreno said the federal government authorization under which the train operates doesn’t allow for additional stops.

The official said that Puebla authorities are collaborating with the French Development Agency on a study to identify alternative transport options in the short, medium and long term.

For their part, passengers and vendors at the Cholula station called on the government to reconsider the decision to shut the train down.

María Goreti, a Cholula woman who catches the train to work, told the news website e-consulta she was disappointed the service wouldn’t continue next year.

“… I live in Cholula and [the train] leaves me closer to my home [than the bus]. I believe it’s a good transport [option] for people who want to visit Cholula; it’s faster and less dangerous than buses, it’s cleaner too,” she said.

Verónica Rico, a vendor with a stall next to the Cholula terminal, said her sales will decline without passengers going to and from the station. She blamed a lack of publicity for the low ridership, although she acknowledged that passenger numbers increase on weekends.

The development of the Cholula train station was controversial when it began in 2015, with permit irregularities and accusations that the construction destroyed archaeological sites containing pottery fragments.

Each of the two trains that run between Puebla city and Cholula has the capacity to carry 284 passengers. The trip takes approximately 40 minutes.

With reports from El Universal and e-consulta

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