• The La Plancha train shed in 2018, left, compared with an architect's rendering.

Merida, Yucatan — The Mayan Train will travel through 4 kilometers / 2.5 miles of tunnel before reaching La Plancha, said Fonatur’s director, Rogelio Jiménez Pons.

The announcement cements the federal government’s intention for the La Plancha site, where an ecological and cultural central park had been planned.

The exact site of the tunnel, and how the project impacts the train line’s budget, was not disclosed.

But the idea solves one problem: how to safely carry passengers and freight when Merida’s train tracks have all been above ground, dangerously competing with vehicular traffic.

Advocates for a new park, years in the making, were enraged.

“We don’t want a train station, we want a park as promised,” said Felix Rubio Villanueva, director of the Gran Parque La Plancha civic group. Indeed, the previous state administration approved a master plan and timeline that would have put acres of mid-city park already in place by now.

La Plancha is the Centro’s largest vacant swath of land, and the city’s last chance to bring more nature and outdoor recreation to the area.

What we know about the tunnel

Jiménez Pons said the tunnel would be dug 6.5 meters / over 21 feet deep, a relatively shallow hole for a train. It would start at the point of crossing between the periferico and the Merida-Cancun highway until reaching La Plancha’s train station, which today is an art school where an expansion and renovations have been halted.

The federal official, whose agency is in charge of tourist investment, said the Peninsula’s limestone is soft enough to cut through, but stable enough to support a train tunnel with proper engineering.

La Plancha has been planned as the “nerve center” of the entire Mayan Train, or Tren Maya, a massive infrastructure connecting five Peninsular states by rail, ultimately giving Cancun tourists easier access to sites like Palenque in Chiapas. The entire operation will be run from offices here.

Jiménez Pons added that he understands the position of the neighbors, “but we can also do a station below, so that would not bother anyone.”

A park and a train station can co-exist on the multi-acre site, he suggested. an idea was one of many floated at a 2014 workshop. But advocates for a more eco-friendly park at La Plancha have advocated a Mayan Train stop only in Uman, just outside the city, where more modern railways divert freight cars away from Centro traffic.

Source: Archives, agencies