Mexico’s incoming president launched an ambitious, controversial and expensive project to build rail lines through five southeastern states. Dubbed the “Maya Train,” it create bring rail service connecting the ancient Mayan ruins at Palenque to the tourist hotspot of Cancun. Both freight and passenger trains are planned for the new system.
The Maya Train project promises a slew of work for railroad contractors. Bids on the first four of seven stages of the project are expected to go out “in two months at the latest,” President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said at a ceremony kicking off the project today, according to Reuters. And none of that work will be easy — roughly a third of the 1,500 kilometers (932 miles) of track would pass through undeveloped jungle, according to the BBC.
Environmentalists, activists representing indigenous people, academics, and others have voiced concerns about the effects the Maya Train would have on the jungle. For his part, Lopez Obrador has dismissed those concerns while claiming that the project will create jobs and reduce immigration from the area to the United States.
Costs are estimated at $7.4 billion. The Mexican government has earmarked $297 million of its 2019 budget for construction, and is seeking private investment for the rest.