Tuesday, April 16, 2024

AMLO inaugurates Cancún to Playa del Carmen stretch of Maya Train

“I am very proud,” said President Andrés Manuel López Obrador at the inauguration of the  68-kilometer northern part of Section 5 of the Maya Train on Thursday morning, which runs from Cancún to Playa del Carmen.

“I am very pleased … [We’ve laid down] 554 kilometers of rail track and more than 800 kilometers of electrified, double-track railways, with state-of-the-art trains and beautiful stations,” he said, calling the Maya Train “the most important public works project in the world.”

AMLO at a press conference in Cancún
The president expressed his satisfaction with the Maya Train project on Thursday, which is one of his administration’s hallmark infrastructure projects. (Lopezobrador.org.mx)

Section 5 is still not fully operational. On Feb. 16, a federal court ordered construction suspended along the southern stretch of Section 5, which will run from Playa del Carmen to Tulum. As of Thursday afternoon, tickets for the newly opened stretch of the train are not available for purchase on the Maya Train website yet.

The president admitted last month that in addition to the southern stretch of Section 5, sections 6 and 7 — which run from Tulum to Chetumal and from Bacalar, Quintana Roo to Escárega, Campeche, respectively —  wil not be inaugurated until summer. The first four sections of the Maya Train have been operational since last year, though many terminals have yet to be completed.

Quintana Roo Governor Mara Lezama praised the Maya Train project at the president’s morning conference, saying it has proved beneficial to her state, boosting foreign direct investment (FDI) from US $456 million in 2022 to $736 million last year, a 61% increase.

“Section 5 will serve as an alternative to the Playa del Carmen-Cancún highway for tourists as well as our tourism sector labor force,” she said. The governor added that tourism generates nine of every 10 pesos of Quintana Roo’s GDP.

Map of the Maya Train route
The Maya Train railroad crosses five Mexican states. President López Obrador inaugurated the northern part of Section 5, which will run from Cancún to Tulum once the southern section is completed. (guiadeltrenmaya.com)

Outside the Playa del Carmen train station, a group of environmental activists including members of six civil associations staged a protest, denouncing the “illegal” project as ecocide.

Newspaper El Financiero reports having secured audits by the National Fund for Tourism Development (Fonatur) that reveal a series of irregularities surrounding the construction of Section 5, including failure to submit requisite environmental impact studies, failure to meet obligations including soil conservation and reforestation, failure to create trails around the tracks for native animals and failure to implement a water management plan.

Among the principal concerns for environmentalists are the steel and concrete pilings that support an elevated section of track. These pilings pierce the roofs of limestone caves and pose a risk to the quality of subterranean water. Protesters in Playa del Carmen, who chanted slogans including “This Train isn’t Maya, it’s military” and “This isn’t development, it’s dispossession,” were met by a smaller group of pro-AMLO counter-protesters.

On Wednesday, the president rode the Maya Train from Palenque to Chichen Itzá, where he inaugurated the Maya Museum. The trip took 6½ hours — by car, it would take eight hours — with the train hitting speeds of 140 kilometers per hour.

López Obrador has maintained that both the construction and operation of the Maya Train — a US $20 billion project — will help generate economic prosperity and well-being in the five states it runs through. The train connects cities and towns in Tabasco, Campeche, Yucatán, Quintana Roo and Chiapas, giving passengers access to less-visited parts of Mexico’s southeast.

With reports from El Financiero, La Jornada and La Jornada

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