A projection of Mexico’s Tren Maya tourist train. Photo: Fonatur

By MARK LORENZANA

The federal government of Mexico will spend almost 70 billion pesos more to finish two of its flagship railway projects: the controversial Tren Maya and the extension of the suburban train that will run from Lechería station in the State of Mexico (EdoMéx) to the new Felipe Ángeles International Airport (AIFA).

On June 1, Mexico’s Secretariat of Infrastructure, Communications and Transportation (SICT) announced that the cost of both projects was adjusted based on the new projections from the government’s own Finance and Public Credit Secretariat (SHCP).

The Tren Maya will now cost an additional 62.4 billion pesos, or 37.4 percent more, than originally planned, while the expansion of the suburban train will cost 7.9 million pesos, 39 percent more than its initial estimate.

The Tren Maya — one of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s (AMLO) pet projects — will cross through the southern states of Yucatán, Quintana Roo, Chiapas, Campeche and Tabasco.

Sergio García, professor at the Universidad Iberoamericana and an expert in infrastructure, believes that the problems with the layout of the Tren Maya are “making the project more expensive.”

“The change of route requires buying new rights of way, and when the new route is finalized, it will have to be reinforced,” García said.

In addition, considering the existence of cenotes and caverns along the train’s route, and that the construction of the contentious Section 5 South of the railway is threatening to destroy part of Mexico’s archeological heritage, it will be necessary to carefully plot and replot the entire track, which involves a considerable increase in investment, García said. Section 5 of the Tren Maya route is currently suspended indefinitely for filing to meet environmental requirements.

García stressed that the original railway project was poorly designed and the costs “are already beginning to be felt.”

In the case of the suburban train, García said that he believes that the rush to inaugurate the AIFA and make it operational is also beginning to have an impact on the cost, especially on the unplanned complementary roadworks that keep cropping up.

He added that it was always clear that constructing an additional train route to the AIFA was going to be expensive, and the rush to inaugurate the new airport triggered the problem, but the authorities did not want to admit it.

In an interview with the daily newspaper Reforma on Tuesday, June 21, renowned speleologist and underwater researcher Octavio del Río warned that least 58 possible underwater paleontological and archaeological sites are in danger of being destroyed if Section 5 of the Tren Maya railway is not rerouted. “You have to do several dives into these underground waterways, many of them still unexplored, and look in all the nooks and crannies. There might still be some undiscovered archaeological sites that are in danger of being lost,” he said.

“It’s not just a matter of going in there and having a quick look. It requires time.”

Del Río led the team that discovered the bones of the oldest human fossil in the Americas — more commonly known as Eva de Naharon — during a cenote dive in the Yucatan Peninsula more than 20 years ago.

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