Work on Mexico’s Mayan Train line is expected to begin at the end of April, according to the president of the National Fund for Tourism Promotion.

Rogelio Jiménez Pons said the first phase would consist of five sections of track, the first of which is expected to start on April 30.

The first phase of the US$7.4 billion line will run from Palenque, Chiapas to Cancún, Quintana Roo, passing through the states of Tabasco and Campeche and the cities of Merida and Izamal in Yucatan.

Jiménez also presented a schedule for tenders for the first two sections of the first phase. A bidders workshop on Jan. 22 attracted 85 companies, including companies from Brazil, Canada, China, Portugal and Spain.

Among the interested companies are Prodemex, ICA and Ferromex.

The first tenders will be opened on Feb. 7, on the government’s CompraNet online platform; winners will be announced April 17. Tenders for the stretch of track passing through Yucatan will be opened Feb. 21 and decided April 30. Work for the final section of the first phase, reaching Cancun, will be announced May 4.

Although a Dec. 15 referendum showed overwhelming support for the train among the indigenous communities it will affect, members of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation and indigenous organizations called the consultation process a sham and vowed to fight the project.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said the line would respect biodiversity and archaeology.

“There is no work that is worth more than health or the cultural heritage of our people … we want growth with well-being and without destroying the land,” said the president.

He insisted that no ejido is affected, no land is taken from any farmer. “We will move on without affecting the environment,” said Lopez Obrador.

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