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Cancun-Palenque tourist train generates concerns and hopes

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Palenque would get more tourists if a train connected it to larger attractions to the north. Photo: Getty

When a newly elected Morena-party senator announced a huge tourist project linking sun-and-fun destinations with more cultural sites by rail, reaction was varied.

The plan, which was presented in June when President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador when he was still campaigning, consists of a railway line with a medium-speed train (the media have ceased calling it a “bullet train”) that links popular tourist cities north of the Peninsula to several cultural and environmental sites in the south.

Business groups were elated, environmentalists were concerned and readers were skeptical, remembering fizzled promises of a ferry, train and other letdowns. One commenter noted that train lines of this type are never self-sufficient, and would require government subsidies as long as it operated.

The project represents 830 kilometers/516 miles of railway line from Cancun to Palenque, with 12 station stops including Tulum, Bacalar and Calakmul.

The participation of the federal government, private companies, small owners and ejidatarios — common land shareholders — is included in the project to make it feasible.

To build, it would take six years and 64.9 billion pesos, less than initial estimates of 100 billion, according to López Obrador’s “National Project 2018-2024.”

The project is planned in four stages. The first in an elevated double track that runs from Cancún-Tulum: the second is a single, road-level line between Tulum and Bacalar; and the third is a single track between Bacalar and Escárcega. The fourth and final stage is from Escárcega to Palenque.

To do this, land has to be acquired, which alarms environmentalists and people concerned with the rights of native landowners.

The rail line would be an economic boon to the region, said Horacio Maya Terán, a construction industry official in Quintana Roo.

But Aniceto Caamal Cocom, who chairs the environmental association Yax Cuxtal, asked that communities between Cancun and Palenque be informed directly of details as they relate to their land.

The leader of the Cancun and Puerto Morelos hotel association, Roberto Cintrón, said that after the new government takes office, strategies for financing and involving private investment should be considered.

Source: El Economista, social media

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