Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Palenque to Cancún stretch of Maya Train railroad is now open

An additional stretch of the Maya Train railroad opened Sunday, allowing travelers to reach the city of Palenque in Chiapas from the Caribbean coast resort city of Cancún, Quintana Roo.

Section 1 of the 1,554-kilometer-long railroad – a 228 kilometer stretch between Escárcega, Campeche, and Palenque – is now operational.

Lezama AMLO Train Maya
President López Obrador and Quintana Roo state governor Mara Lezama rode the train together to inaugurate the new section of the line. (Tren Maya/X)

Sections 2, 3 and 4 of the railroad, which link Cancún to Escárcega, were inaugurated on Dec. 15.

President López Obrador – the proponent and foremost champion of the Maya Train project – was accompanied by state governors and other officials on the inaugural journey from Cancún to Palenque, where a Maya archaeological site of the same name is located.

In an eight-minute video filmed in the driver’s compartment and later posted to social media, López Obrador noted that Section 1 passes over the Usumacinta River, which he called “Mexico’s biggest river,” although it isn’t the longest in the country.

His video showed a section of the river as well as the nearby, as-yet-incomplete, Boca del Cerro station, at which passengers will be able to disembark to take boat trips along the Usumacinta – described by the president as “a natural beauty.”

Inauguración del tramo de Cancún a Palenque en el Tren Maya

Now that four sections of the railroad are open, there are just three left to be inaugurated.

They are Section 5 between Cancún and Tulum; Section 6 between Tulum and Chetumal; and Section 7 between Bacalar and Escárcega. The entire railroad is slated to be operational by the end of next month.

López Obrador’s trip between Cancún and Palenque on Sunday, a journey of close to 900 kilometers, took just under 11 hours, arriving in the latter destination in the late afternoon. The train returned to Cancún on Monday with paying passengers on board.

“Excellent first day of the year for the Maya Train. We began operations with the first passengers on the Palenque-Cancún route. The Maya Train is now in Palenque!,” read a post on the Tren Maya account on the X social media platform.

The project includes state-of-the-art new transport hubs, though several remain under construction. (Fonatur)

Including the stations in Palenque and Cancún, there are 22 stations along the sections of the railroad currently in operation. However, not all of them are complete or open.

Built by private companies and the Mexican army, the railroad has a total of 34 stations (including modest ones known as paraderos, or stops).

López Obrador inaugurated construction of the railroad in June 2020, and pledged at the time that it would be finished in 28 months, or by October 2022.

However, the project has faced a range of challenges, including court rulings that have temporarily halted work and ardent opposition from environmental groups, which say that the construction and operation of the railroad pose a threat to wildlife, subterranean rivers and the Maya jungle.

On Sunday, López Obrador said that the companies involved in the construction of the multi-billion-dollar railroad have built a “very good,” high-quality project in a short period of time without exceeding projected costs.

He asserts that the operation of the Maya Train will spur economic development in Mexico’s historically disadvantaged southeast, and increase tourism in parts of the region that are currently visited by a fairly small number of people, especially when compared with destinations such as Cancún and Tulum, where a new airport opened last month.

The project “is already taking prosperity to the entire Mexican southeast,” Quintana Roo Governor Mara Lezama said on X on Sunday.

“We shared the final day of the year with the best president this country has had, @lopezobrador_, in the first @TrenMayaMX trip from #Cancún to Palenque,” the Morena party governor said in another post

“Thank you president for keeping your word and making this project a reality. In addition to being a means of transport, it symbolizes development with justice and prosperity for the Mexican southeast. At each station we passed, we saw how our regions are recovering their luster. We celebrate this milestone that fills Mexicans with hope,” Lezama said.

With reports from El Economista, El Financiero, La Jornada and Proceso 

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