- Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador on Friday inaugurated a 290-mile passenger rail line that will accommodate tourists.
- The first part of the 950-mile Maya Train line, however, is not scheduled to be completed until February, according to current estimates.
- The line, a pet project of López Obrador’s, will loop around the Yucatán Peninsula and connect key tourist destinations, including seaside resorts and archaeological sites.
Mexico’s president on Friday launched the first part of his administration’s pet project, a tourist train that runs a rough loop around the Yucatan Peninsula.
The $20 billion, 950-mile line, called the Maya Train, is intended to connect seaside resorts and archaeological sites. However, it’s not over yet. Officials have promised that the rest of the line will be ready by the end of February.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador opened a 290-mile stretch on Friday between the colonial Gulf Coast city of Campeche and the Caribbean beach resort of Cancun. This is about a third of the entire project and covers the least controversial area.
MEXICO GOVERNMENT FORCES TRADE LINES TO PRIORITIZE PASSENGER RAILWAYS
It will take about 5 1/2 hours to travel from Campeche to Cancun at an average speed of about 50 miles per hour, although officials have promised the train will be capable of speeds of up to 75 mph.
There will be two trains per day at a time, with stops in the colonial city of Merida, the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza and about ten other cities. Initially, officials had planned to charge separate, lower fares for Mexicans on the line, and foreign tourists would pay a higher fare.
However, the only prices listed for the first routes were differentiated only by first class and “tourist class” tickets, which have been on sale since Saturday, although most are sold out.
A first class ticket on one of the two trains from Cancun to Merida each day will cost the equivalent of $68. A first-class bus ticket on the same route costs about $58, with buses departing about every half hour.
The first train cars that started on Friday were reserved for dignitaries, officials and the press. López Obrador called it a record-breaking project that will eventually connect Cancun with beach towns like Playa del Carmen and Tulum, and the Mayan ruins of Calakmul and Palenque.
“There are no public works projects like this in the world,” López Obrador said. “It was also done in record time.”
Layda Sansores, governor of Campeche state, claimed that “the whole peninsula is breaking out in shouts of ‘Hallelujah!’
Unlike the remaining two-thirds of the Maya Train, the section of track inaugurated on Friday already had an old train track running much of the way. Many of the still-unfinished parts were cut into the jungle and built over sensitive, fossil-filled cave systems, prompting objections from environmentalists.
López Obrador has fought to complete the Maya Train project before leaving office in September, overcoming objections from environmentalists, cave divers and archaeologists. The train runs along the Caribbean coast and threatens extensive caves where some of the oldest human remains in North America have been discovered.
López Obrador has sought to experience the Maya train project, exempting it from the usual permitting statements, public reports and environmental impacts, arguing that it is vital to national security.
AMLO ANNOUNCES 20% INCREASE IN MEXICO’S MINIMUM WAGE
In November 2021, López Obrador’s government issued a broad decree requiring all federal agencies to give automatic approval for any public works project that the government deems to be “in the national interest” or that “involves national security” .
The train was built in part by the Mexican military and will be run by the armed forces, to which López Obrador has entrusted more projects than any other president in at least a century.
López Obrador is known for his fascination with trains, the armed forces and state-owned companies in general. In November, it announced it would require private rail companies that carry mostly freight to offer passenger services or ask the government to schedule its own trains on their lines.
Almost no regular passenger rail service remains in Mexico after a 1995 reform that gave concessions to two private rail companies: Mexico’s Ferromex and a subsidiary of the US railroad Kansas City Southern.
CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP
Some tourist trains run relatively short, unconnected routes to tourist attractions such as northern Mexico’s Copper Canyon and the western tequila-producing region around Jalisco.