Mayan Train: Construction of Tren Maya in Cancun starts in June

The first sections of the train from Palenque to Cancun will generate 100,000 jobs this year and will boost tourism in an area where Spanish hotel companies are located, including Ríu, Piñero, Iberostar, Meliá, Barceló, Oasis, Palladium, Occidental and HM.

The Mayan Train route
The Mayan Train route

The Spanish construction companies FCC, Carlos Slim from Mexico, and Esther Koplowitz from Spain, and Azvi, in association with the Mexican company Gami, will be present at the inauguration of the Mayan Train, which is already underway.

The section from Izamal to Cancun (Quintana Roo), (projected as the fourth stage) has been won by the Mexican construction company ICA, since it has the operation of the Kantunil-Cancun road, parallel to the rail corridor. While in the bidding of Section 5 (121 kilometers from Cancun to Tulum), to begin in mid-June, BlackRock is ahead, after submitting an unsolicited proposal to expand the Cancun-Tulum highway, where more lanes are planned in both directions and the Tren Maya is in the central part.

The sections Tulum-Bacalar-Chetumal-Calakmul and the junction with Escarcega (Campeche) will be built later.

With a total of 1,525 kilometers, 18 stations and 12 stops, and a budget of 6.3 billion, the total route will cross the states of Chiapas, Tabasco, Campeche, Yucatan, and Quintana Roo. Dedicated to the passenger, tourist, and cargo transport, the corridor is expected to begin operations in 2023, although the impact of COVID-19 is likely to cause delays.

What is Tren Maya?

According to the initiative of the federal government, the Mayan Train has as its objective an integral project of territorial reorganization, infrastructure, and sustainable tourism. If completed, the Mayan Train will connect the main tourist destinations in the states of Chiapas, Campeche, Tabasco, Yucatan, and Quintana Roo.

The first stone of its construction was laid on December 16, 2018 and the project is expected to be completed in 2024. The train is intended to offer three types of services: mass transport, tourist and commercial. The route includes 17 stations: Palenque, Tenosique, Balancan, Escárcega, San Francisco de Campeche, Mérida, Izamal, Chichén Itzá, Valladolid, Cobá, Cancún, Puerto Morelos, Playa del Carmen, Tulum, Felipe Carrillo Puerto, Bacalar and Calakmul.

As for the route that the train will follow, 95% of the line will pass through existing rights of way. This means that this transport will pass through land that is already conditioned for roads and railways.

This infrastructure project will have different construction phases. The first phase consisted of repairing the railway lines that run from Palenque to Valladolid in 2019. The construction of Selva y Caribe II will begin by 2020.

Controversies around the Mayan Train

In total, the Mayan Train will travel about 1460 kilometers which will generate jobs and detonate the economy of the region. In addition, the construction of this massive means of transportation will help contain the urban growth of the region's cities, reducing migration and decentralization. The latter will also mean better preservation of local culture and traditions.

Although ideally compensatory measures are sought to reduce negative impacts on nature, the Mayan Train is not free from criticism from indigenous and environmental groups. In response, the Mexican government has convened a citizen consultation on December 14-15, 2019, which will define the future of the project.

There is currently a dialogue program with the objective of reaching a consensus with the populations involved. As well as a search for inclusion in the processes of construction and operation.

According to the environmentalists, the new train will wipe out ecological forest reserves and endanger endemic species such as the jaguar, ocelot and quetzal. In addition to generating noise, pollution and an economy that would mostly benefit tourism entrepreneurs.

Map of the Mayan Train

This is the outline of the Mayan Train route that will go from Valladolid, Yucatan, to Tulum, Quintana Roo, from where a branch will be made to reach Cancun.

This is the outline of the Mayan Train route. Image: Fonatur
This is the outline of the Mayan Train route. Image: Fonatur