The Mayan Train, an infrastructure project started by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to reenergize Mexico’s economically lagging south, has captured the interest of international companies on every continent.
In an interview with EFE, the director of the National Fund for the Promotion of Tourism (Fonatur), Rogelio Jiménez Pons, highlighted the importance of the “interest of big businessmen” in the 150-billion-peso project.
“We are calling (on potential investors) so that, for the construction of all of this, we have the best possible companies,” said Jiménez Pons, when talking about the Mayan Train, which will require public-private investment and 30-year service contracts.
Canada’s Bombardier, France’s Alstom, the China Railway Construction Corp. and Spain’s Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles (CAF) are among potential bidders who have come forward, he said.
These companies will seek to participate in any of the “open and international” tenders that will start in mid-2019 and will be divided into three stages.
The Mayan Train is one of the cornerstone projects of the López Obrador administration and will stretch 1,500 kilometers between five states: Quintana Roo, Tabasco, Campeche, Chiapas and Yucatan.
It will have stops at important points such as Cancun, which receives about 15 million tourists a year, or the ruins of Palenque, and promises to be a boost for the region when construction ends in about four years, he said.
“There is a debt to the Southeast, and it has a very great potential,” said Jiménez Pons, who heads the agency in charge of managing this project, which will embody “common sense and environmental and social respect.”
The train is intended for both local citizens and tourists, with who will be charged varying rates, and will also double as a cargo train.
Physical work officially started on Dec. 16 in Palenque, where construction seeks to revolutionize the entire urban scene of this city.
New neighborhoods will be created from the project. The train stations that will be built to serve the tracks will trigger retail and housing projects around them, he said.
Although the government has publicly committed to complying with environmental impact studies and conducting consultations with indigenous communities, the Mayan Train concept has been criticized by environmental and indigenous community advocates.
“We must achieve an honest dialogue. (The communities) will be affected, yes, but positively,” said Jiménez Pons, who projects a functioning train line by 2022.