Mayan Train Sections 6 and 7 Begin Construction
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Mayan Train Sections 6 and 7 Begin Construction

Photo by:   Andrés Manuel López Obrador on Twitter
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María José Goytia By María José Goytia | Journalist and Industry Analyst - Mon, 04/11/2022 - 09:12

President López Obrador inaugurated the construction of the Tulum and Palenque airports, as well as sections 6 and 7 of the Mayan Train, the remaining sections to be built. The event came amid protests regarding the environmental damage to the Mayan Riviera.

During his inaugural speech to military engineers, the president announced that he will carry out monthly reviews of the Mayan Train’s advances to assure the project will be finished by the end of 2023.

The president announced back in October 2020 that the military would oversee the construction of sections 6 and 7 of the train. With works completed at the Felipe Ángeles International Airport (AIFA), 155 military engineers are moving to Quintana Roo to fulfill the task. Section 6 will run from Tulum to Bacalar via a 254km railway, while section 7 will cover 287km of railway going from Bacalar to Escarcega.

As a message to the Mayan Train’s detractors, López Obrador asked the military engineers in charge of the construction to uphold their megaprojects. "The Mayan Train is not only built to boost tourism, development and employment. It is also built to generate profits that guarantee the future pensions of retired military members. That is why you must take care of and defend these works that are built with public budget funding," said the president in his inaugural speech.

The Mayan Train is one of the key infrastructure projects of President López Obrador's administration. However, the construction of the train has led to complaints from civil society and academics who accuse it of severely damaging the region’s biodiversity.

The criticism intensified after a route modification for Section 5 South, which covers Playa del Carmen and Tulum. This was planned to go through an overpass, but due to the rush to finish the work, the route was changed toward jungle zone.

Specialists from UNAM and the Mexican Center for Environmental Law (CEMDA) warned about the risks brought by the Mayan Train. Rodrigo Medellín, Investigator, UNAM Institute of Ecology, stated that "trains are a great idea, but this train is not compatible with the socio-economic development of the Yucatan Peninsula and is not sustainable from the point of view of biodiversity."

Concerns about the negative environmental and social impact generated by the Mayan Train continue to increase, as sections 6 and 7 are the most complicated to build. Data from PwC shows that the project has a 75 percent probability of encountering construction risk due to limestone rock, which is abundant between Yucatan and Quintana Roo and therefore around Sections 6 and 7.

If these risks are encountered during construction, there is a 95 percent probability of a delay of up to 12 months in construction and a 95 percent probability of cost overruns. PwC adds a 75 percent probability of encountering undiscovered archaeological sites, which would further increase construction time.

In addition to the project’s environmental woes, communities from the Mayan Riviera strongly reject the train, since families living in the right-of-way areas will have to be relocated. What is more, locals are complaining about the cost increase of basic services due to the construction of the train.

The president has disregarded the protests a, describing those who speak out against the project as “pseudo-environmentalists.” Instead, the federal government is speeding up the construction to inaugurate the train before the end of his six-year term. Therefore, the government is keeping a close eye on the Mayan Train to supervise its progress.

Photo by:   Andrés Manuel López Obrador on Twitter

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