Corrosion Exposes Tren Maya's Structural Vulnerabilities

June 17, 2024
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Corrosion Exposes Tren Maya's Structural Vulnerabilities

Corrosion Exposes Tren Maya’s Structural Vulnerabilities

Activists reveal that high salinity is corroding the Tren Maya's steel piles, threatening its structural integrity between Playa del Carmen and Tulum, sparking legal and environmental debates.
Corrosion Exposes Tren Maya's Structural Vulnerabilities

TULUM, México – Activists from the environmental movement #SélvamedelTren have raised alarms about the integrity of the steel piles supporting the Tren Maya on its segment between Playa del Carmen and Tulum. Recent photographs reveal significant corrosion on these piles, attributed to the high salinity of the local aquifer, casting doubt on the long-term stability and safety of the structure.

On June 4, environmentalist Cristina Nolasco shared a striking image of a diver amidst corroded steel piles, emphasizing the perilous state of one of the 15,000 piles meant to support the train. “Shocking, a diver floats amidst the corrosion of one of the 15,000 piles that are supposed to ‘support’ the Tren Maya on its Section 5, with no guarantee of firm ground for weight and vibration,” she posted on social media. This section, known as Tramo 5 Sur, traverses an area rich with 122 caves and cenotes, all at risk due to the ongoing construction.

Corrosion Exposes Tren Maya's Structural Vulnerabilities

Espeleologist Guillermo D. Christy echoed these concerns, questioning the maintenance strategies for the piles in the corrosive environment. “How will it be ensured that these piles do not fail due to lack of maintenance? How can it be prevented that the soil supporting them dissolves and fails?” he asked, highlighting the critical need for sustainable solutions.

Corrosion Exposes Tren Maya's Structural Vulnerabilities

The judicial system has also played a role in this ongoing controversy. On May 29, Federal Judge Adrián Novelo denied a request from the Secretaría de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (Semarnat) to lift a suspension on the construction of Tramo 5 Sur, a suspension initially put in place on January 22 to protect the sensitive cave and cenote systems in the region. This decision underscores the legal and environmental hurdles the project faces.

Corrosion Exposes Tren Maya's Structural Vulnerabilities

Moreover, on June 3, Christy pointed out the fragility of the karstic soil near the Tulum station, noting the appearance of a new surface cave. He warned that nothing guarantees the stability of the piles sunk 25 meters into this delicate terrain.

Corrosion Exposes Tren Maya's Structural Vulnerabilities

The Tren Maya, an ambitious 1,554 km railway project intended to boost tourism and economic development in the Yucatán Peninsula, has been fraught with environmental and logistical challenges. The project’s supporters argue that it will enhance connectivity between major tourist destinations, including Cancún, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum, while critics highlight its potential to cause irreversible ecological damage.

Despite these setbacks, the project continues to progress. By early February 2024, the Tren Maya had completed 239 trips, transporting over 37,000 passengers. However, the environmental and logistical concerns raised by activists and experts remain a significant point of contention​.

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