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One of the flagship projects of AMLO in Mexico is this "tourist and cultural" train that connects the main destinations of the Mayan world
In the second of two referendums that he has convened since his party is at the head of the Congress, the president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), asked the opinion of the electorate regarding the construction of a multimillion-dollar tourism project.
Leer en español: Tren Maya: el más ambicioso proyecto turístico de la región
'El Tren Maya', as it has been called, would connect five states of the Mexican Southeast, creating a railway network between the main tourist destinations of this region of the country: Cancun, Chichen Itza, Tulum, Palenque, and Calakmul.
Read also: Visit Southern Mexico! 5 wonders of Chiapas
The construction of the 'El Tren Maya' began on December 16, but there are still many unknowns surrounding the project, particularly regarding its costs and the benefits it will bring to local communities.
How much does the Mayan Train cost?
At first, the figure announced as budget by AMLO was between $ 6,000 and $ 8,000 million, but it was known that it was an inaccurate estimate, a difference of $ 2,000 million in costs leaves much to chance.
In the end, the total budget figure was adjusted to 150,000 million Mexican pesos, or about $ 7,389 million dollars.
According to several studies conducted in Australia, particularly the Northern Central City Corridor Study of the city of Melbourne and the Melbourne-Brisbane Inland Rail Alignment Study, the average cost of a railroad on land starts at $ 1.4 million dollars per kilometer and it can amount to $ 4.6 million dollars per kilometer for mountainous areas.
Taking into account these estimates, the cost of building only the 1,500-kilometer rail lines this train would go through should be around $ 4,500 million dollars. To this figure must be added the costs of the trains and stations necessary to take advantage of the lines.
If these estimates apply to the construction of the Mayan Train, then it would be a little less than $ 3,000 million to take charge of trains and stations
In light of these calculations, the budget seems sensible. In addition, we must have in mind that the financing of the project is not 100% public, AMLO announced that he would publish tenders for private companies to participate in the construction of the Mayan Train in exchange for subsidies for each kilometer of roads they build.
"The subsidy will have as a requirement, or the consideration will consist in making the passage for the inhabitants of the entire region cheap," said López Obrador, something that will be achieved by charging commercial fares for tourist and cargo trains.
Problems on the horizon
Despite the enormous size of the project, the financing of this does not seem to be a problem at the moment, the criticism comes from other sides.
In the first place, there are serious concerns with the environmental damage that the construction of the train could generate. Almost all of the 1,500 kilometers of planned roads cross jungles, and to build it must be cut, putting at risk the habitat of more than 8 types of vegetation, 94 species of mammals and more than 400 species of birds.
These figures come from a letter addressed to President López Obrador from 100 researchers and academics from the Yucatan Peninsula, dated December 19:
"We are as concerned about road accidents as the reduction and modification of the natural habitat, as well as the interruption of biological corridors that lead to the reduction or local extinction of populations of species, especially highly vulnerable species," the letter affirms with respect to the project's risk to the local fauna.
But the goal of AMLO is to bring development to the people who inhabit the area by expanding the tourism infrastructure. However, the letter suggests the permanent damage to the jungle of which hundreds of communities in the region live.
"The great tourist developments now threaten the resources that are vital to their way of life and culture," the experts added. "The destruction of the jungles is the destruction of the conditions necessary for their own development."
LatinAmerican Post | Pedro Bernal
Translated from "Tren Maya: el más ambicioso proyecto turístico de la región"