Mexico’s Maya Train project was launched in 2018 and significant work had already been done by the time it was halted for environmental reasons, but now work has started again and Cancun tourists are expected to be able to ride the new Maya Train by the end of 2023. Section 5 of the train’s track, which connects the cities of Tulum and Cancun, was the issue that caused the delay in construction. This was due to questions regarding the environmental impact the project would have on the surrounding areas.
Over the last several months there have been multiple hearings regarding the environmental impact of the train and now finally agreements have been made that have allowed the work to move forward. This is after a study by the Institute of Ecology ruled out the idea that the project would increase the environmental deterioration of the surrounding area and the local mangroves and cenotes. Shortly after the completion of the study, the Mexican government announced that the Section 5 project “complies with the environmental and legal conditions for its construction.”
The Maya Train is expected to greatly increase tourism opportunities in the Yucatán Peninsula and it will also help connect those living in more rural areas to larger cities. For tourists, it provides easier access to cultural and historical tourism, with multiple archaeological sites along the way. It will also allow Cancun tourists to visit other cities during their stay, as there are other tourist destinations along the route.
The route of the Maya Train will include 18 stops throughout the Yucatán Peninsula. The stops include:
- Palenque, Chiapas
- Boca del Cerro, Tabasco
- El Triunfo, Tabasco
- Escárcega, Campeche
- Xpujil, Campeche
- San Francisco de Campeche, Campeche
- Merida Aeropuerto, Yucatan
- Izamal, Yucatan
- Chichen Itza, Yucatan
- Valladolid, Yucatan
- Nuevo Xcan, Quintana Roo
- Cancun Aeropuerto, Quintana Roo
- Puerto Morelos, Quintana Roo
- Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo
- Tulum Aeropuerto, Quintana Roo
- Felipe Carrillo Puerto, Quintana Roo
- Bacalar, Quintana Roo
- Chetumal Aeropuerto, Quintana Roo
There has been criticism of the Maya Train project not only by environmentalists and some of the local community but from people all over the world. As a result, there have been some modifications made to the original route in order to protect caverns, cenotes, and archeological sites. The Mexican government is now assuring that as the project continues “they will carry out environmental monitoring programs such as flora and fauna rescue, reforestation, waste management, and soil restoration to guarantee the viability of the work.”
The Maya Train will allow tourists to access nearly 200 historic sites and attractions along the route. Among those, some of the most popular sites include the National Park of Palenque, the Chichén Itzá ruins, the Xibalba cenote, the Puerto Morelos Reef National Park, and the Mayan archeological sites of Izamal. There are also a number of cities that are already popular among tourists who visit Cancun, such as Playa del Carmen, Merida, Puerto Morelos, and Tulum, which before would require a car to get to but will now be able to be accessed by the Maya Train.
A few months ago there was also some talk about connecting Cancun to Belize through the Maya Train. Mexico’s Ambassador to Belize, Martha Zamarripa, pointed out that it could be “a great opportunity to extend the work for the benefit of both countries by adding new places and routes to the transport.” Zamarripa said at the time that Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador had not ruled out the idea, but there has been no word yet as to whether it is still an option now that work has begun again.
Despite the opposition, the Maya Train project will carry on and there are plenty of people looking forward to its completion. It will open up new possibilities for both locals and tourists and will bring to light more of the area’s culture than ever before. The project is expected to be completed by December of 2023.
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