Sunday, June 23, 2024

All aboard? Work on Mexico City-Querétaro passenger train could start this year

The feasibility study for the planned Mexico City-Querétaro passenger train will be completed by the end of this month as scheduled and work on the railway could start before the fall, Canadian Pacific Kansas City de México (CPKC)’s president said in an interview this week.

Oscar del Cueto told the newspaper Milenio that construction could begin before President Andrés Manuel López Obrador leaves office on Oct. 1.

Oscar del Cueto,posing with model trains in background
Oscar del Cueto is the head of CPKC’s holdings in Mexico. He told the news media outlet Milenio this week that the long-awaited high-speed train could break ground before President López Obrador leaves office on Oct. 1. (Mexican Railroad Association)

CPKC began its economic feasibility analysis in August 2023 with the goal of determining “the requirements regarding infrastructure, rolling stock, right-of-way, connectivity and number of stations, among other factors,” Del Cueto said at the time.

This is the latest incarnation of a project to connect the two cities by train, originally proposed in 2012 during the Enrique Peña Nieto administration. However, that original proposal was suspended in 2015 after charges of corruption emerged. In 2020, the López Obrador administration announced the train project would be taken up again, and in July 2023, CPKC signed an agreement with the government to develop the proposal. 

In November, the president published a decree declaring passenger train services a priority for national development, with the goal of restoring Mexico’s passenger train network to its former glory. The decree outlined a plan to reactivate seven national passenger routes, giving companies with active concessions for freight tracks — including CPKC — first crack at presenting proposals to implement passenger services.

CPKC, formerly two separate companies, was created in April 2023, when the Canadian rail company Canadian Pacific Railway merged with the United States company Kansas City Southern. As a result of the merger, Kansas City Southern de México became part of the newly created CKPC’s holdings, allowing the new company to take advantage of the nearshoring trend by creating single routes connecting Mexico, the U.S. and Canada.  

Since the merger, the CPKC has boasted that it is “the railway line of the USMCA [U.S.-Mexico-Canada-Agreement].”

“We are the only railway company that connects all three North American nations on a single line,” Del Cueto told Milenio. “We have more than 32,000 kilometers (19,883 miles) of track and we employ more than 20,000 people and we connect to 12 ports.”

Map of proposed passenger service railways in Mexico
A map showing the proposed routes from private companies Grupo México and CPKC. (Jorge Nuño/X)

“The options we offer in a very competitive market are striking, helping us stand out not only in Mexico but in the United States and Canada,” Del Cueto said. 

This year, CPKC will invest upwards of US $485 million in infrastructure projects in Mexico, including several bypasses from Monterrey, Nuevo León, to Celaya, Guanajuato, a cross-border bridge from Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, to Laredo, Texas, as well as improvements at the Lázaro Cárdenas railroad yard in Michoacán.

“We are opening a new gateway from Asia via the Port of Lázaro Cárdenas, with which we can connect to northern Mexico as well as the eastern United States,” said Del Cueto, who also talked of a new service called Mexico Midwest, an express intermodal service linking the state of San Luis Potosí with Chicago.

As of March, the effort by Mexico’s government to renew passenger train service had produced eight proposals for routes currently only used by freight trains. In addition to the CDMX-Querétaro route, CPKC submitted a proposal for passenger service between the cities of Querétaro, San Luis Potosí, Monterrey, and Nuevo Laredo.

With reports from Milenio, Infobae and Mexico Business News

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