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New images of the Mayan Train spark imagination

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Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.

Computer-generated images of the Mayan Train and its stations present cutting-edge designs that have galvanized public opinion across the country. The images were presented by Mexico’s federal tourism development agency, Fonatur.

The design is an expression of the Maya Train’s ambition, but will the scope of the project meet its grasp?

It is unclear if the Mayan Train will run on diesel, electricity, or a hybrid system, but official sources have stated that its top speed will be around 160 kph. Photo: Fonatur

The train itself is to be built by a consortium made up of Bombardier and Alstom, two corporations based in Canada and France respectively. 

Rendering of a train departing from Tulum’s Maya Train station. Photo: Fonatur

Standard passenger carriages will be called Xiinbal, meaning to walk in the Mayan language. This section will feature reclining seats and a coffee shop. 

Xiinbal carriages are intended for short-distance commuters as well as tourists. Photo: Fonatur

The Janal (Mayan for “to eat”) class carriages are to feature the same reclining seats as the Xiinbal but also include a full-service onboard restaurant.

Though the menu has not yet been announced, the restaurant is likely to serve Mexican, regional, and international cuisine. Photo: Fonatur

P’atal (meaning “to stay” or “rest:) carriages will include berths designed for long-distance travel across southeastern Mexico. 

Cabins with bunk beds are perfect for longer trips, especially those which run overnight. Photo: Fonatur

The Mayan Train, or Tren Maya, is to have 19 stops and 11 stations. Some of the largest are to be located in Campeche, Mérida, Chichén Itzá, Izamal and Tulum. 

Map of the Mayan Train complete with a list of its stations and stops. Photo: Fonatur

One of the stations that most stands out for its design is to be built in Tulum by Mexican and English architecture firm, Aidia Studio. The sweeping lattice-shaped roof made of steel, glass and reinforced concrete is designed to enclose the station’s platforms and concourse. 

Mayan Train stations are ambitious, but it is yet to be seen if they can be finished on time and budget. Photo: Fonatur

The design of the station in Chichén Itzá is said to combine elements of Mesoamerican architecture with modern materials and techniques. The station is to be located in the northeast of the city of Pisté, near the archaeological site of Chichén Itzá. 

Chichén Itzá is Yucatán’s biggest tourist attraction, averaging well over 1 million visitors a year (before the beginning of the COVID-19 Pandemic). Photo: Fonatur

The station planed for Izamal looks modest in comparison to those in larger cities, but still appears modern and very comfortable. It is to be constructed using stone from the region in a nod to the ancient monuments the city is known for. 

Rendering of the Mayan Train station in Izamal, Yucatán. Photo: Fonatur

There has been much speculation regarding the station in Mérida, but its location and other details are yet to be confirmed. It had been widely believed the station would be housed in the cities La Plancha park and would likely build upon the existing train station on the grounds of what today is the ESAY art college. 

Mérida has not had a working passenger train station in decades since service to Izamal was discontinued. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

The route of the Mayan Train is to span the Mexican states of Tabasco, Chiapas, Campeche, Yucatán, and Quintana Roo.

Ticket prices have not yet been announced, but official sources have stated that prices for nationals and foreign citizens are likely to vary.

A proposed design for the Mayan Train station in Palenque, Chiapas. Photo: Fonatur

The project was a campaign promise of now President Andrés Manuel López Obrador who was elected in 2018. The project hopes to stimulate tourism in the region and contribute to the economic development of southeastern Mexico.

Signs of the Mayn Train construction can be seen across the region but are most visible to visitors on the Mérida-Cancun highway. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

The Mayan Train is however not without its detractors who argue that the project will not be completed on time, if at all. Others point to environmental and social issues associated with the project, such as deforestation and opposition from indigenous groups. 

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