The Maya Train, a signature project of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s administration, is running five months behind schedule due to a combination of red tape and unexpected geological challenges, the head of México’s FONATUR tourism agency said Friday.
“The bureaucratism of SEMARNAT, SEDATU, and CONAGUA has retarded progress,” said Rogelio Jiménez Pons, referring to the environmental protection authority, the development agency and the National Water Commission, respectively.
Work on the railway, which is meant to be completed by the end of 2023, has also been slowed by the need at some spots along the route to compensate for subsidence caused by climate change, he said.
“There is a difference of as much as 6 meters (about 20 ft) between the embankment and the old rail bed,” Jiménez Pons said.
The government originally earmarked 140 billion pesos to build the 1,554 km (966 mi) railway linking the five southeastern states of Chiapas, Tabasco, Campeche, Yucatán, and Quintana Roo.
But at the end of last month, Jiménez Pons told the Senate that the government expects the total cost to reach 200 billion pesos ($9.3 billion), as the plan has evolved to include additional dual-track segments and stations.
FONATUR spokesman Adrian Montemayor expressed confidence that concerns raised by SEMARNAT and SEDATU about the environmental impact of the Maya Train on the 15 protected areas on its route will be resolved early next year.
“Once the right of way is released, we will advance in the installation of track and crossties. This would begin in the first quarter of 2022, so that in roughly a year, that part of the project is finished,” he said.
Manufacturing of the initial batches of components is already underway at factories in Tabasco and Yucatán. Those batches will then be sent to the United States for testing.
Any shortcomings revealed by the tests will be corrected before mass production begins at the plants in Tabasco and Yucatán and a third facility in El Triunfo, Chiapas, officials told reporters during a tour of the Chiapas factory.