TULUM, Quintana Roo – In this edition of The Tulum Times, we unveil an in-depth guide to the Tren Maya in the Yucatán Peninsula, a living project that has continuously evolved to embrace the biocultural richness of the region. Delve into the intricate details of its routes, stations, tickets, origins, map, and travel times, as we take you on a journey through the heart of Mexico’s southeastern charm.
The Tren Maya, a grand venture spanning an impressive 1,554 kilometers, traverses five states and began construction under the auspices of the federal government in 2019. At its core, the vision behind this ambitious project was to cater to the thriving tourism objectives while also addressing the ever-growing needs for passenger and freight transport. Additionally, it aspires to create development hubs that would uplift the local economies significantly.
Embracing a mosaic of cultural diversity, the Tren Maya’s route intersects 40 municipalities, 18 Indigenous Paradises, 29 communities, 14 Magical Towns, 50 archaeological sites, and 6 UNESCO World Heritage sites. To safeguard the delicate karst terrain, cenotes, caves, and underground rivers, the project has incorporated elevated viaducts and a dedicated bridge to protect the revered Garra del Jaguar cave, specifically within the southern stretch of the Tren Maya.
As you embark on this transformative journey through the marvels of Mexico’s southeast, the Tulum Times stands as your trusted companion, bringing you unparalleled insights into the Tren Maya, a monumental testament to progress and cultural preservation.
The Tren Maya Expands Its Horizons
The Tren Maya is set to trace its route through the captivating landscapes of five Mexican states. As the locomotive’s wheels gently glide along the tracks, it will unveil a tapestry of ancient civilizations, tropical wonders, and vibrant communities. Embarking on a transformative journey, passengers will have the opportunity to immerse themselves in the rich history, natural beauty, and cultural diversity that this route has to offer.
Spanning over 1,525 kilometers, the Tren Maya will traverse the southeastern region of the Mexican Republic, acting as a vibrant artery connecting the states of Chiapas, Tabasco, Campeche, Yucatán, and Quintana Roo. This modern railway will thread together ancient ruins, lush rainforests, bustling cities, and pristine beaches, offering an unforgettable expedition through time and space.
Setting off from the emerald-green jungles of Chiapas, passengers will be transported to a world where ancient Mayan cities still whisper their secrets. Palenque, one of Mexico’s most mesmerizing archaeological sites, beckons with its majestic temples and intricate hieroglyphs. Continuing the journey through the dense foliage, the train will gently glide into the tropical state of Tabasco.
In Tabasco, the Tren Maya will reveal the hidden treasures of the Olmec civilization, considered the “Mother Culture” of Mesoamerica. The ancient city of Comalcalco, with its unique brick temples, stands as a testament to their architectural prowess. As the train departs Tabasco, it enters Campeche, a state renowned for its UNESCO World Heritage Sites and captivating colonial charm.
Campeche’s capital, also named Campeche, exudes a timeless aura with its well-preserved city walls and vibrant pastel facades. Exploring the cobblestone streets, passengers can discover the grandeur of Fort San Miguel and the ornate Cathedral of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. Departing from Campeche, the Tren Maya continues its odyssey towards the peninsular paradise of Yucatán.
Yucatán, home to iconic destinations such as Chichén Itzá and the vibrant city of Mérida, invites travelers to unravel the mysteries of the ancient Maya. Witnessing the magnificent Kukulcan Pyramid, a New Wonder of the World, and strolling through Mérida’s vibrant streets, travelers will experience the harmonious blend of the past and present.
Finally, the Tren Maya reaches its ultimate destination: Quintana Roo, a state synonymous with tropical bliss and turquoise waters. Here, the paradisiacal shores of Tulum and Cancún await, promising sun-soaked relaxation and vibrant nightlife. Quintana Roo’s diverse ecosystem, including the Great Maya Reef, the second largest coral reef system in the world, lures adventurers and nature enthusiasts alike.
Where Does the Tren Maya Begin and End?
With 42 trains and 219 carriages, the Tren Maya will traverse a circuit of 1,554 kilometers, starting with Tramo 1 in Chiapas to Campeche: Palenque-Escárcega. Tramo 2 covers Campeche: Escárcega-Calkiní. Tramo 3 extends from Campeche to Yucatán: Calkiní-Izamal. Tramo 4 connects Yucatán to Quintana Roo: Izamal-Cancún.
It continues with Tramo 5 Norte Quintana Roo: Cancún-Playa del Carmen. Tramo 5 Sur Quintana Roo covers Playa del Carmen-Tulum. Tramo 6 extends within Quintana Roo: Tulum-Chetumal. Lastly, Tramo 7 spans from Quintana Roo to Campeche: Chetumal-Escárcega.
What Will the Tren Maya Be Like?
The Tren Maya will be a state-of-the-art railway system, consisting of 42 trains and 219 carriages. Inside the carriages, passengers will find video screens, internet access, cafeteria services, restrooms, air conditioning, panoramic windows, and between 300 and 500 seats, all with accessibility features for people with disabilities.
During its daily operations in southeastern Mexico, the Xiinbal standard of the Tren Maya will have a capacity of 230 passengers in its four-car model and 430 passengers in its seven-car version. The restaurant car will comprise four carriages with a capacity of 140 passengers, where freshly prepared meals with the flavors of the southeast of Mexico will be served.
How Did the Tren Maya Project Originate?
The Tren Maya project, aimed at boosting the tourist offerings of the Mayan world, began construction in 2019 under the current administration. However, its origins and background trace back to 1988 when the initiative to build the “Ruta del Mundo Maya” was launched during Carlos Salinas de Gortari’s presidency. The objective was to establish a tourist and commercial relationship among the so-called “5 Mayan nations”: Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, and El Salvador. Even back then, a mixed financing model, involving both public and private sectors, was proposed for the “promotion of the Mundo Maya abroad and regional integration.” This concept was later adopted by López Obrador.
Although the Tren Maya is not an original idea of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, it was during his government that the capitalist plan to transform the peninsula into a commercial and tourist hub gained traction. The most recent predecessors of this project were the administrations of Felipe Calderón Hinojosa and Enrique Peña Nieto.
In 2012, under Felipe Calderón’s leadership, Mexico and Central America presented the idea of the Mundo Maya route at the Tourism Fair in Spain. The concept aimed to promote a journey through 100 archaeological sites of this shared culture, generating interest for investments. On the other hand, Enrique Peña Nieto advocated for the idea of the Tren Transpeninsular, which was never realized. However, the project is now being constructed and operated under the name of Tren Maya by the Mexican Army.
The Price Tag of the Tren Maya
In a recent estimate released during the first quarter of 2023, the construction of the highly anticipated Tren Maya has been projected to cost a staggering 3.6 million pesos, or, to be more precise, a staggering sum of 359,863.3 million pesos. This mind-boggling figure has left many wondering about the true extent of the financial commitment required for this ambitious infrastructure project.
To put the Tren Maya’s cost into perspective, it is essential to consider the drastic price hike it has undergone since its inception. In 2020, when the project was officially registered with the Secretaría de Hacienda y Crédito Público (SHCP), the estimated cost stood at a modest 156 million pesos. However, the most recent estimation reveals a mind-numbing reality: the cost of the Tren Maya has more than doubled.
With a staggering increase of 130.7% in just three years, the Tren Maya has faced severe criticism and scrutiny from both the public and experts alike. The substantial surge in expenses has raised eyebrows and ignited debates about financial transparency and the overall management of the project. As the Tren Maya’s budget continues to soar, it becomes increasingly crucial to examine the reasons behind this dramatic cost escalation.
The Tren Maya, which spans seven different sections across Mexico, encompasses an ambitious vision to promote economic growth, connect communities, and boost tourism in the region. However, as the project unfolds, questions arise as to whether the original cost estimates were realistic or perhaps underestimated. The magnitude of the price increase raises concerns about adequate planning, budget control, and oversight.
Critics argue that a 130.7% cost escalation cannot be attributed solely to unexpected obstacles or unavoidable circumstances. Instead, they argue that it points to deeper systemic issues plaguing the project’s management, such as inadequate risk assessment, poor project governance, or even potential corruption. As stakeholders attempt to dissect the causes behind this inflated budget, accountability and transparency become crucial pillars in restoring public trust.
The Tren Maya project holds immense potential for the region, with promises of job creation, increased tourism revenue, and improved connectivity. However, the exorbitant price tag it now carries raises doubts about the project’s long-term sustainability and its ability to deliver on its ambitious objectives. As taxpayers shoulder the burden of this skyrocketing budget, it is imperative that the government ensures rigorous oversight and efficient spending to justify the monumental investment.
Embarking on a Journey through the Enchanting Tren Maya
Prepare to be captivated as we unveil the breathtaking route of the Tren Maya, a visionary project that promises to redefine travel and tourism in the Yucatan Peninsula. Spanning seven distinct segments, this transformative railway is set to whisk passengers away on an unforgettable adventure, enveloped in the rich tapestry of Mexico’s cultural and natural wonders.
Stretch 1: Chiapas to Campeche – Palenque-Escárcega
Our journey commences in the verdant state of Chiapas, where the Tren Maya’s inaugural stretch takes form. Departing from the ancient city of Palenque, with its storied ruins and mystical aura, the train carves its way through lush landscapes, unfolding the region’s diverse natural treasures. Travelers will witness the mystical allure of the Lacandon Jungle before arriving at the vibrant hub of Escárcega in Campeche.
Stretch 2: Campeche – Escárcega-Calkiní
Continuing the odyssey, the Tren Maya traverses Campeche’s picturesque terrain, connecting Escárcega and Calkiní. This segment unveils the coastal delights of Campeche, where turquoise waters gently caress pristine white sands. Explore the charming colonial architecture of Campeche City or bask in the tranquility of the nearby fishing villages, immersing yourself in the authentic essence of Mexico.
Stretch 3: Campeche to Yucatán – Calkiní-Izamal
Embarking on the third leg of the journey, passengers are treated to a mesmerizing passage from Campeche to Yucatán. As the Tren Maya hurtles towards Izamal, the “City of Three Cultures,” prepare to be enchanted by the town’s remarkable fusion of Mayan, Spanish, and colonial influences. Amidst the city’s vibrant yellow façades, ancient pyramids, and cobblestone streets, history comes alive, revealing the intricate tapestry of Mexico’s past.
Tramo 4: Yucatán to Quintana Roo – Izamal-Cancún
The Tren Maya ventures deeper into the heart of the Yucatan Peninsula, transitioning from Yucatán to Quintana Roo. This segment unveils the iconic city of Cancún, renowned for its idyllic beaches, azure waters, and thriving nightlife. As the train arrives, a gateway to paradise beckons, offering resplendent resorts, vibrant coral reefs, and the chance to soak in the sun-drenched bliss of the Mexican Caribbean.
Tramo 5: Northern Quintana Roo – Cancún-Playa del Carmen
Continuing its path along the Quintana Roo coastline, the Tren Maya embarks on Tramo 5, transporting eager travelers from Cancún to Playa del Carmen. This stretch of the railway unveils the allure of the Riviera Maya, where powdery beaches and crystalline waters create a haven for beach enthusiasts and diving aficionados alike. Dive into the kaleidoscopic world of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System or indulge in the vibrant energy of Playa del Carmen’s bustling streets.
Tramo 6: Quintana Roo – Playa del Carmen-Tulum
As the Tren Maya forges ahead, it arrives at Tulum, a treasure trove of ancient wonders and natural splendor. Nestled on the Caribbean coast, Tulum enthralls visitors with its breathtaking Mayan ruins perched atop dramatic cliffs, overlooking the turquoise expanse below. Explore the bohemian charm of Tulum town, savoring the fusion of ancient traditions and modern luxuries that make this destination truly extraordinary.
Tramo 7: Quintana Roo to Campeche – Tulum-Chetumal
Concluding our epic expedition, the Tren Maya embarks on the final segment, linking Quintana Roo to Campeche. Travelers will be transported from the captivating shores of Tulum to the bustling city of Chetumal, gateway to the magnificent nature reserves and wildlife sanctuaries that flourish in the region. Immerse yourself in the untamed beauty of Calakmul Biosphere Reserve or discover the mystical allure of Bacalar Lagoon, where iridescent shades of blue meet lush greenery.
Who Owns the Tren Maya?
The ownership of the Tren Maya lies in the hands of an unexpected entity – the Mexican Army. More specifically, the Secretariat of National Defense (SEDENA) has taken charge of its construction through the company Grupo Aeroportuario, Ferroviario y de Servicios Auxiliares, Olmeca-Maya-Mexica.
However, to oversee the operation and administration of the Tren Maya, a majority state-owned company called Tren Maya S.A. de C.V. was created, also belonging to SEDENA. This company was officially established on April 13, 2022, when its formation was announced in the Official Gazette of the Federation (DOF). The Mexican Congress, in a controversial move earlier this year in April 2023, granted indefinite and complete control over the Tren Maya to this company.
The decision to place the Tren Maya under the stewardship of the military has elicited a spectrum of reactions. Supporters argue that the Army’s involvement ensures strong security measures and efficient management, given their expertise in logistics and infrastructure. Additionally, they believe that having the military at the helm will safeguard the project from corruption and political interference, two longstanding concerns in Mexico.
However, critics express concerns about the potential militarization of public infrastructure and the lack of transparency surrounding the decision-making process. They contend that a civilian entity, with greater public oversight and accountability mechanisms, would be better suited to handle such a massive undertaking. Questions have also been raised about the potential diversion of military resources away from their core mission to focus on the Tren Maya.
It is worth noting that the Tren Maya project, envisioned as a key driver of economic development and connectivity across the Yucatan Peninsula, has generated considerable enthusiasm both domestically and internationally. With its ambitious plan to connect popular tourist destinations, archaeological sites, and indigenous communities, the railway aims to boost tourism, generate employment opportunities, and promote sustainable growth in the region.
As construction progresses, the Tren Maya remains under the watchful eye of the military. The involvement of SEDENA brings a unique dimension to this project, intertwining the military’s organizational structure and discipline with the complex world of transportation and infrastructure. The long-term implications of this decision, both for the railway and the country as a whole, are yet to be fully realized.
How Long Will the Tren Maya Journey Last?
In the heart of the lush Yucatan Peninsula, a transformative transportation project is set to unfold, captivating the imaginations of travelers and locals alike. The Tren Maya, an ambitious railway network spanning approximately 1,500 kilometers, promises to revolutionize connectivity and unlock the hidden treasures of Mexico’s southeastern region. As the region’s bustling cities, picturesque towns, and natural wonders eagerly await their moment in the spotlight, the burning question on everyone’s lips is: How long will this extraordinary journey truly last?
According to the official information released by the Tren Maya authorities, this high-speed locomotive will whisk passengers through the captivating landscapes at a maximum speed of 160 kilometers per hour. Such velocity promises a seamless exploration of the region, allowing travelers to traverse the entirety of the route in approximately nine and a half hours. Picture it—a single day brimming with discovery, as the train weaves its way through vibrant cities like Tulum, Playa del Carmen, and Merida, unraveling the tales of ancient civilizations and the breathtaking beauty of the Mexican countryside.
It is important to note that the estimated duration of the journey is subject to variables such as weather conditions, station stops, and any unforeseen circumstances that may arise. Nevertheless, the Tren Maya’s commitment to efficient transportation ensures a truly immersive experience for those eager to immerse themselves in the rich tapestry of the Yucatan Peninsula.
Ticket Prices for the Tren Maya
As the eagerly anticipated launch of the Tren Maya draws near, travelers and locals alike are filled with curiosity about the financial implications of embarking on this grand railway adventure. The question on everyone’s lips is: How much will a ticket for the Tren Maya truly cost?
While precise figures have yet to be disclosed by the Tren Maya authorities, it has been revealed that ticket prices will vary depending on the category of passengers—tourists, locals, and those utilizing the cargo transportation service. Such a nuanced approach reflects the project’s commitment to striking a balance between accessibility and fairness, ensuring that all individuals have an opportunity to partake in this transformative journey.
When it comes to passenger fares, the projected pricing structure will be based on the distance traveled, adopting a per-kilometer calculation. This methodology allows for a tailored approach, catering to the needs and financial capacities of different groups of travelers. In a nod to inclusivity, the Tren Maya aims to offer preferential and affordable rates for local passengers, recognizing their vital role in the region’s fabric and fostering a sense of pride and ownership.
On the other hand, the tariff structure for national and international tourists is expected to reflect the unique experience and services provided during the journey. By aligning ticket prices with the quality and range of amenities catered towards visitors, the Tren Maya seeks to ensure an unforgettable and immersive encounter with the vibrant tapestry of the Yucatan Peninsula.
While specific figures are still shrouded in secrecy, the Tren Maya authorities have assured the public that a delicate balance between economic sustainability and inclusivity will be maintained. Such an approach aims to foster an environment where both local passengers and tourists can coexist harmoniously, forging connections, and embracing the region’s cultural and natural wonders.
It is worth noting that these estimations and pricing strategies are subject to further refinement as the Tren Maya project progresses. Authorities are keenly aware of the need to strike the right balance between generating revenue for the sustainability of the project and ensuring that ticket prices remain within reach for a wide range of individuals.
When and Where to Purchase Tickets for the Tren Maya
As the grand opening of the Tren Maya draws near, prospective travelers are eager to plan their journeys and secure their coveted tickets for this transformative railway experience. The burning questions on everyone’s minds are: When and where can one purchase tickets for the Tren Maya?
According to authorities closely involved in the project, tickets for the Tren Maya will be available for purchase at 34 designated points of sale. These points of sale will be strategically located across the 20 stations and 14 stops that form part of this sprawling railway network. As the Tren Maya becomes fully operational, these points of sale will be bustling hubs where travelers can acquire their tickets and embark on their long-awaited adventure.
Recognizing the digital age we live in, the Tren Maya authorities have also embraced the convenience of online ticket sales. A dedicated official website will be launched, providing a seamless platform for travelers to purchase their tickets from the comfort of their own homes or while on the go. Additionally, authorities are actively exploring the development of a mobile application for smartphones and tablets, designed to streamline and expedite the ticket purchasing process, eliminating the need for cumbersome queues and ensuring a hassle-free experience for travelers.
In a bid to enhance efficiency and convenience, the Tren Maya authorities are considering the implementation of a multimodal card system. This innovative approach would allow passengers to use a single card for access to the Tren Maya as well as other modes of transportation, such as the IE-Tram—an all-electric bus that will connect the railway to various attractions along the route in Yucatan and Campeche. By adopting such a system, travelers would enjoy a seamless and interconnected journey, effortlessly navigating the region’s wonders with a single card in hand.
While exact details regarding the commencement of ticket sales and the launch of the official website and mobile application are yet to be unveiled, the Tren Maya authorities are committed to keeping the public informed as the project progresses. Aspiring passengers are advised to stay tuned to official announcements and updates to ensure they don’t miss the opportunity to secure their tickets for this extraordinary railway adventure.
The Environmental Implications of the Tren Maya
Intended to enhance tourism and improve connectivity across the Yucatan Peninsula, this megaproject has been hailed as an economic driver for the region. However, concerns have been raised by environmental organizations such as Selvame del Tren, shedding light on the project’s failure to adhere to the required Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) regulations in a timely manner. As a consequence, the project’s implementation has resulted in severe ecological repercussions, including the loss of endemic animal species and the depletion of vital water sources, which could potentially leave parts of Quintana Roo without access to water in the future.
The initial wave of criticism has focused on the alarming deforestation rates that accompanied the construction of the Tren Maya. Disturbingly, over 10 million trees have been felled, disrupting the delicate balance of the local ecosystem. The repercussions of this ecological imbalance have already begun to manifest, as several endemic animal species native to the region are facing a precarious future. The destruction of their natural habitat jeopardizes the survival of these animals, placing them at risk of extinction. Experts warn that the ripple effects of such ecological disruption can reverberate throughout the entire food chain, threatening the overall biodiversity of the region.
Furthermore, indigenous communities, primarily represented by organizations like Múuch’ Xíinbal, have come forward to voice their grievances regarding the Tren Maya project. For these communities, the impacted territories hold immense cultural, agricultural, and linguistic significance, forming the epicenter of their heritage. The construction of the railway has led to allegations of land dispossession, further exacerbating the marginalized status of indigenous groups already grappling with historical injustices. The encroachment upon their ancestral lands not only jeopardizes their way of life but also undermines their ability to preserve and transmit their cultural traditions to future generations.
The controversy surrounding the Tren Maya project highlights the delicate balance between economic development and environmental conservation, as well as the complexities inherent in large-scale infrastructure projects. While proponents argue that the railway will spur economic growth and generate employment opportunities, opponents fear that the long-term consequences on both the environment and indigenous communities will far outweigh any short-term benefits.
In response to mounting concerns, the Mexican government must prioritize a comprehensive reassessment of the project’s environmental impact and engage in dialogue with affected communities. Additionally, stricter adherence to environmental regulations, including a transparent and thorough EIA process, must be enforced to mitigate the potentially irreversible damage caused by the Tren Maya project.
As the debate surrounding the Tren Maya project continues to unfold, it is imperative that a balance is struck between economic progress and the preservation of cultural heritage and ecological integrity. Only through a thoughtful and inclusive approach can Mexico’s vision of sustainable development truly be realized, ensuring the protection of both its natural treasures and the rights of its indigenous communities for generations to come.