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High-speed transpeninsular train appears stalled

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The plan to build the transpeninsular high-speed train from Merida to Punta Venado, on the Mayan Riviera — which was to start construction in October and begin operation 2017 — is virtually paralyzed, reports Diario de Yucatán.

The project’s absence from a 2015 budget proposal, an official request to suspend a key environmental impact study, and the lack of a cost-benefit analysis are cited as evidence that the plan has gone by the wayside.

President Enrique Peña Nieto announced, at his 2012 inauguration, a multibillion-dollar plan to restore passenger rail service in Mexico, including a 110-mph rail line linking Merida east to the Caribbean coast. But earlier this month, the chief executive made no reference to the project in Yucatan while delivering a speech that cited 24 other rail projects, including the Mexico City-Toluca and Mexico City-Querétaro lines.

One source tells Diario that the government might be considering postponing the train until 2016 or 2018, leaving it for the next administration to sort out, or even cancel the project altogether.

Meanwhile, the Mexico City-Querétaro bullet train, the first of its kind in Latin America, went out to bid in July. Work is expected to start this year on that line, and is projected to begin serving up to 23,000 passengers every day by December 2017. The announcement of a new mega airport in Mexico City is also swallowing infrastructure resources.

Mexico’s railroads were privatized in 1997, and have since focused mainly on freight service. Two passenger trains — the Tequila Express in Jalisco and El Chepe on the Chihuahua City-Los Mochis route — cater mainly to tourists.

Sources: Diario de Yucatán, Fox, El Economista

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