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Everything you need to know about the Mayan Train project
The Mayan Train and all 932 miles of railroad that comprise it will be divided into three routes - Photo: File photo/EL UNIVERSAL

Everything you need to know about the Mayan Train project

23/11/2018
14:09
Adriana Varillas / corresponsal
Mexico City
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Rogelio Jiménez Pons, the incoming director of FONATUR, answers questions about the Mayan Train

A few days away from the national referendum of November 24 and 25 to ask the Mexican people, among other things, if they agree with the construction of the Mayan Train project, Rogelio Jiménez Pons, the upcoming general director of the National Fund for Tourism Development (FONATUR), claimed that the construction will include a second hydrogen train to enter the Calakmul ecological reserve.

The Mayan Train and all 932 miles of railroad that comprise it will be divided into three routes: The Gulf route coming out of Palenque, with stops in Tenosique, Chiapas, Escárcega, and Campeche, continuing north with stops in Maxcanú, Mérida, Izamal, Valladolid, and Cancún, where the Caribbean route will start, coming down to the Mayan Riviera, with stops in Puerto Morelos, Playa del Carmen, Tulum, Felipe Carrillo Puerto, and Bacalar. The Jungle route will go from Bacalar to Xpujil and Calakmul, in Campeche, continuing towards the Gulf route in Escárcega, Tenosique, and Palenque.

Within the circuit, the so-called “crown jewel,” according to Jiménez Pons, is Calakmul, a municipality located in Campeche that possesses an archaeological zone and an extremely important biosphere reserve.

“We consider Calakmul to be the crown jewel. The right of way that we will use, according to the executive project, will pass through roads and high voltage lines. In both cases, there is no forest anymore, there are only bald patches,” he claimed.

“Actually, we have had talks with local communities and the leaders of the natural reserve to see how we can help each other, because there are several environmental groups involved that have helped a great deal and done a great job in protecting the reserve so far."

There has been criticism surrounding the entry of the hydrogen train to the Calakmul reserve, though Jiménez Pons stated that the idea had come from a biologist in Calakmul that submitted his proposal four months ago. “Half a year ago I went to Germany and saw the hydrogen train myself. I have already come in contact with the company and the train is completely emission-free,” he stated.

He added that, in any case, a traditional diesel train is a hundred times less polluting than a highway. “It’s pure logic. There is a smaller environmental impact. In a train, passengers come on and off in train stations, while in a highway, it is easier for people to damage the environment by stealing wood, spices, animals, and other things.”

In an interview with EL UNIVERSAL, the upcoming director of FONATUR claimed that the train would attract 3 million people during the first years of operation. “We are aiming to attract the same amount of tourists that are currently going to Tulum.”

The Calakmul biosphere reserve comprises 1,729,738 acres. The archeological reserve also spreads through thousands of acres. What we want is to distribute the tourist inflow so that they don’t accumulate in a single place, as is the case in Tulum. We want to redistribute tourism in the region.”

In the past few months, the Mayan Train project, which will connect the states of Campeche, Chiapas, Quintana Roo, Tabasco, and Yucatán has faced criticism due to certain defficiencies in the planning stage. The transition team has claimed that works for the Mayan Train will begin on December 17, before the executive project is completed, which is why its environmental impact cannot be fully evaluated by the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT).

In view of this, Jiménez Pons explained that the initial construction will consist of the rehabilitation of existing railways that have already been authorized for use and represent 60% of the project’s entire railway line, which is why there will be no need to ask for new permits at this time.

“There is an ongoing program for the rehabilitation of the railway coming from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. That program has existed for years. The Mayan Train will simply take advantage of said rehabilitation. FONATUR, in cooperation with the Ministry of Communications and Transports, will retake this rehabilitation project, speed it up, and modify it so that the train transports both cargo and passengers,” he added.

The upcoming government will rehabilitate the tracks and launch a competition for the executive project of the railway that will go from Escárcega to Chetumal, all the way to Cancun. After the contest, we will issue the proper MIAs (Environmental Impact Studies).

The upcoming director of FONATUR estimated that it would take a year for the executive project to be finished.
 

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