The under-construction fifth section of the Tren Maya. Photo: Google

By KELIN DILLON

While work on the fifth section of Mexico’s controversial Tren Maya project was purportedly suspended by a Mexican federal judge last April after the project failed to acquire proper Environmental Impact Statements (MIA) ahead of its construction, building on the Tren Maya’s fifth section has reportedly continued on in spite of the judge’s ruling – and with a 92 percent increase in budget, at that.

Section Five of the ​​Yucatán Peninsula railway, which spans from Cancun to Tulum, was divided into two sections, north and south, both of which were suspended by the federal judge’s decision. The construction was initially planned to run parallel to the area’s Highway 307, but was later moved eight kilometers into the jungle following protests from nearby urban area residents. 

As a result, 808 hectares of native flora and fauna will be disrupted to accommodate for the train’s construction.

The Tren Maya’s updated MIA, which was released on Friday, July 15, has now revealed that cost for the project’s fifth section has increased by 92 percent, shooting up from 31 billion pesos to 59.6 billion pesos – all of which will be paid by the Mexican Treasury.

Much of this price increase can be attributed to the redesignation of Section Five’s northern subsection to the Secretariat of National Defense (Sedena) by Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) from its original contract winner in March 2021. When accommodating the Army and the project’s movement deeper into the jungle, the northern subsection’s cost shot up to 28.1 billion pesos – 114 percent more expensive than the bids placed by rival companies for the contract.

All proceeds won from the Tren Maya’s operations are set to be awarded to the Sedena as a result. 

The same fate is expected to meet Section Five’s southern subsection, which was originally won by the Grupo México-Acciona consortium but is expected to be canceled early and redistributed to the Sedena.

According to the Mexican Institute for Competitiveness (IMCO) and Mexicans Against Corruption and Impunity (MCCI), more than 70 percent of contracts awarded to the Sedena have been done without public bids or transparency under the guise of national security.

Across the more than 60 contracts awarded to the Tren Maya, the project’s mounting cost has reportedly reached 212 billion pesos in total for all of its sections, 31.6 percent higher than its initially proposed budget.

Late Monday, July 18, the López Obrador administration declared the Tren Maya a “national security” project, this exempting it from having to comply with normal legal regulations such as environmental responsibility and archeological preservation.

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