The Maya Train will magically open up the Yucatan Peninsula and make it more accessible for tourists. What is far from settled is the ecological cost.
Mayan ruins of Tulum, Cozumel, Mexico
There are several factors that make Mexico a perfect vacation destination, especially for travel-hungry Americans. One, Mexico is damn close. One might say it’s a dive across the gulf. Secondly, Mexico is relatively cheap. Nothing compared to the Caribbean Islands. And, of course, on costs alone, Europe doesn’t even come close. Travel alone would significantly blow up the cost of a European vacation. Now, while opinions do vary, only a few people will deny that Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula is one of the most remarkable places on earth, not just in Mexico or North America. We can mention Yucatan’s many awesome caves, cenotes, and Mayan Ruins, extraordinarily diverse wildlife, stunning landscape that comes with sweeping views of several sandy beaches, and much, much more.
Now picture this. A train to help one tour this natural paradise; from Cancun through the Yucatan. Well, that’s what has been in the pipeline for a while.
Here’s What The Maya Train Is
We call it the Maya Train in English, but in Spanish, the official language in Mexico—and the one most widely spoken—this train is known as Tren Maya. The Maya Train is an intercity railway intended to go through the Yucatan Peninsula, arguably Mexico’s number one tourist destination. The Yucatan Peninsula has an impressive number of sites and attractions that can blow any traveler away. Situated on the easternmost edge of Mexico, Yucatan also boasts several small, charming towns, including Cancun and Tulum, that vacationers are not getting enough of. Cancun has particularly emerged to be a travel hotcake where celebrities escape to—for some secluded pleasure—or just to frolic on the town’s breathtaking beaches. The Maya Train should loop across the Yucatan Peninsula on a railway network whose length will stretch to slightly more than 1,500 kilometers, making 17 stops along the way.
Maya Train is being built by Alston, the French-based rail transport multinational with operations across the globe. This is after the National Fund for the Promotion of Tourism (Fonatur) issued a tender for the flagship project whose contract price Alston puts at one billion Euros. Though the project’s total cost may never be known with absolute certainty, a Bloomberg article puts the total cost of the train at a staggering 20 billion.
As part of the project, the multinational will design and construct 42 X’trapolis trains, a series of multi-units Alston is associated with. According to Alston, the exterior design of the Maya Train is inspired by “the Mayan culture, in the majesty of the jaguar…in its elegance, speed, and beauty.” On the flip side, the interior design will exude a range of shades of blue, an artistic hint to the beaches and the ocean for which the peninsula is wildly famous. The Mexcian government secured an undertaking from Alston that the train’s construction would be done locally.
- When is The Construction Of Maya Train Expected To Be Complete? The tentative completion date is December 2023.
The Construction Of Maya Train And The Accompanying Challenges
Expected to wend its way through 190 tourist attractions, the main reason for the construction of the Maya Train is ostensibly to boost tourism, one of the region’s economic mainstays. Even skeptics won’t deny that Yucatan, the stunning Peninsula across which the train is to cut, is the closest thing to paradise. And with the expected uptick in tourism, the Mexican government has been touting other accompanying windfalls. Key among a raft of benefits expected to kick in include the blossoming of the region’s economy. This may be an economic game changer. The region through which the train will snake is one of Mexico’s most underdeveloped. In this respect, the project has been described as a “great detonator.” Still, the construction of Tren Maya has not been without its fair share of controversy.
For starters, there’s the view that Maya Train’s economic potential may remain just that: a potential. According to some experts, since taxpayers are expected to subsidize the train’s cost for many years to come, the financial viability of the project may be, at best—uncertain. It hasn’t helped matters that the train’s budget has never been a settled affair. Instead, it’s always been going up as if aiming for the skies. At $20 billion, according to the cited Bloomberg article, the train’s budget is now at least 70% higher than previously envisioned. But the financial controversy is nothing compared to the storm raised by conservationists.
Since the train has been rerouted away from the coastline and will now noisily rumble deep into the inland jungle, conservationists have warned that it will cause unimaginable destruction to one of the Western Hemisphere’s largest remaining rainforests. And since the region features many undiscovered Mayan Ruins that make it an archeologist’s dream, many of these may be destroyed and completely lost to posterity. Here’s the thing. There’s no doubt that the Maya Train will magically open up the Yucatan Peninsula and make it more accessible for tourists. What is far from settled is the ecological cost.