Friday, June 21, 2024

How was the first trip on the Maya Train?

Mexico’s Maya Train project, which links tourist areas and archaeological sites in five southern states, faced a few mishaps over its opening weekend following an inaugural ride by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador on Friday.

President López Obrador initiated the first operational portion of the 1,554-km route— a 473-km stretch between Cancún airport and Campeche that takes about 5½ hours to travel and has stops at 14 stations.

The inaugural journey was not without its challenges, as passengers waited for a delayed service in a station without functional toilets. (Michael Balam/Cuartoscuro)

However, even that route is only partially finished, with just a single line of a planned double-line track in place — meaning that one train has to wait in a siding while another passes.

For that reason, there will be only two trains per day each way at the outset.

However the limited schedule didn’t alleviate scheduling headaches. For the public opening on Saturday, the first departure from Cancún at 7 a.m. was 23 minutes late.

However, passengers lined up for the 11 a.m. train from Cancún had to wait a long time before it arrived from Campeche, with a delay of up to five hours reported by some outlets.

Amid rain and cold, dozens showed up early for the historic occasion. As minutes turned into hours, some napped on the concrete floor at the station, which is reportedly 85% complete – but does not yet have bathrooms (in its place were two portable toilets). 

Officials apologized for the long delay and said it was due to trains being “reconfigured.” 

“It is important to make it clear that this delay problem originated from a technical failure by Alstom, which is the company that provides us with the Maya Train,” a spokesman said. “We, the Tren Maya company, are not responsible for this breakdown. However, we apologize.”

While a major infrastructure project of the López Obrador government designed to increase development in Mexico’s poorer south, the Maya Train project has drawn objections from environmentalists, cave divers and archaeologists. Its route through the jungle crosses many environmentally sensitive areas riddled with caves and cenotes. The fragile ecosystem is also home to some of the oldest human remains in North America.

AMLO on supervision tour of Maya Train
The Maya Train is perhaps the defining policy of the López Obrador government. (lopezobrador.org.mx)

The second phase of the railway will launch on Dec. 30, with the rest of the line ready by the end of February, López Obrador said. Unlike the remaining two-thirds, the part of the line inaugurated Friday already had an existing train line running over much of the route.

Ticket sales for the inaugural runs began on Dec. 1, with ticket prices ranging from 1,166 pesos (about US $68) to 1,862 pesos (US $108). A first-class bus takes about the same time for around US $58, although cheaper options abound.

The Maya Train tickets will be priced differently for Mexican nationals and local residents,  with foreign tourists paying a higher fare. For the inaugural journey however, the only prices listed were for first class and tourist class.

With reports from La Jornada, El Economista and AP

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