Transportation: the Maya train mega-project in Mexico

Audio 02:32

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has decided to speed up megaprojects in the country which he says are vital to national security.


By: Marina Mielczarek

5 mins

It will be the Orient Express train from Mexico!

This is how President Obrador likes to talk about his Maya train mega-project.

A new circuit intended for the development of the south-east of the country, one of the poorest regions of Mexico. 


A new word exists in Mexico:



No connotation.

positive or negative.

This is just the term Mexicans use to refer to President Andres Manuel Obrador's choice to make Mexico a tourist country.

A 1,500 km loop in the Mexican southeast

The Maya train will pass through the states of Chiapas and Yucatan, the poorest regions of Mexico.

Samuel Jouault, French geographer lives on site, in Merida, the main city of Yucatan.

As a territory and development expert, he fears simplifications.

A number of articles published from abroad are content to oppose opinions (environmental associations) against tourism industry:

“There is a lot of talk about this mega Maya train project.

The works have already started.

But in intellectual circles, at the University and in social research centers, voices are especially opposed to Fonatur, the public body for Tourism, the National Fund for the Promotion of Tourism.

This fund is responsible for the future circuit of the Maya train.

However, in the past, the Fonatur has not shown respect for the preservation of nature or the indigenous populations.

But me, I see things evolving!

Moreover, the government has understood the issue well since it puts forward the consultations and meetings organized with the local populations ”.

Lee la nota completa, aquí: https: //

- Tren Maya (@TrenMayaMX) December 3, 2021

300,000 jobs at stake

From his office in Mexico City, Octavio Paredes Lopez, president of the Academy of Sciences explains that perhaps, before investing the money in the tourism project of the Maya train, the government should have honored its promises to improve the sector. of health:

“On the one hand, I am delighted with this development project for the country.

But on the other hand, I fear that it has become a priority in other budgets such as health, which is however very important.

President Obrador had promised to improve health and still has not done so.

But I also know that Mexico needs trains and railroads.

Most of the journeys here are made by road ”.

Old railways rehabilitated

The trains of the future Maya railroad will run on old abandoned tracks.

In the most isolated regions, new tracks are already under construction.

However, among the indigenous populations, some have accepted to be relocated, others have succeeded in mobilizing associations so that the initial paths are modified and bypass their villages instead of crossing them.

Risk of Mayan folklorization

Like other specialists in social economy, researcher Luis Reygadas of the Autonomous University of Mexico is concerned about the dialogue of the deaf opposing the pro-train Maya to these detractors:

"In this case, neither side listens to the other!

Some opponents continue to refuse dialogue.

They are radically opposed and do not want to hear anything.

On the other hand, I believe President Obrador has done everything too authoritarian.

Mexicans can therefore legitimately think that they do not have the possibility of expressing themselves, so much power is convinced by this tourist project ”.

The Maya train: from the beaches of Cancun to transporting oil

With a lot of video spots on the You Tube network and on its own website, the Yucatan regional tourism department announces that this Mayan train circuit will be accompanied by envelopes to develop the Mayan culture.

From the production of honey to crafts, the encouragement of a solidarity economy is put forward.

The second argument is aid in the transportation of oil from these states in southeastern Mexico, which provide 95% of the country's oil.

However, Fonatur - the Fund for Tourism Development - has already been criticized for promises of jobs but jobs at a discount, at the risk of turning these Mayan trains into local folklore trains.

The Mayan train facing the law

Again, no quick simplification.

Twenty lawsuits have been filed by environmental opponents and human rights lawyers (the main motivations are the relocations of populations and environmental devastation.) On the support side, there are 24 Mayan cooperatives who voted for this. Maya train.

During the Covid 19 pandemic, the work continues!

This Maya train project is part of a larger plan around Mexico's infrastructure with four mega-projects: the new Mexico City airport, the construction of a refinery in the state of Tabasco, the expansion of the port of Progreso in the state of Yucatan, and the project to extend the railway lines on the border with Guatemala to the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.


Transport, a matter of national security and public interest" 

As soon as he came to power in 2019, President Obrador made transportation a matter of national security.

He repeated it in a speech on November 24.

But already, in view of the appeals (from the political opposition) to the Supreme Court, the construction of the airport is now on hold.

Unesco is currently examining the project.

Contacted by RFI, Unesco informed us that the examination of the dossier for the future circuit of the Maya train is underway.

The first Mayan train trip in 2024

President Obrador, for his part, recalled that the Covid 19 pandemic will not slow down his ambition, he has paid the equivalent of 20 billion euros for the completion of these projects.

The first Maya train passenger trip is promised for 2024!


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  • Transport

  • Mexico

  • Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador