The 950-mile Maya Train mega-project will be inaugurated in December 2023 as planned, despite ongoing problems and delays, promised Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
The Maya Train was first announced back in 2018 when it was touted as a way of increasing tourism and boosting job prospects in southeastern Mexico. There have been many setbacks since 2018, including protests by indigenous peoples, environmental concerns, re-routing, and a huge underestimation of the costs.
However, progress continues and, should the President’s promise come to fruition, visitors can expect to begin using the game-changing train service by Christmas next year.
Alongside Tulum’s new international airport, reportedly also due for completion in 2023, transport in the Yucatan peninsula is set for a shake-up in the mid-2020s, potentially seeing changes to tourist behaviors by facilitating movement and opening up some of the less well-known destinations in this part of Mexico.
Where will the Maya Train run?
The Maya Train route has changed several times since 2018, with the latest reroute to the Playa del Carmen section, following opposition due to the railway line bisecting the economically-important city.
However, for the most part, the route is set and will offer a total of 19 stations, plus a number of additional stops, along the 950-mile line, spanning a total of Mexican 5 states. Stations will be located at:
- Playa del Carmen
- Puerto Morelos
- Felipe Carrillo Puerto
- Nuevo Xcan
- Chichén Itzá
- El Triunfo
- Boca del Cerro
How will the Maya Train benefit tourists?
Until now, Mexican Caribbean visitors predominantly enter the region through Cancun airport, and many go no further than the Hotel Zone. This has helped to make Cancun the country’s most popular beach destination, and the second most popular destination worldwide.
The Maya Train will benefit visitors by opening up more of this fascinating region. Instead of using buses, which can be slow and confusing, the Maya Train will be a slick mode of transport. Running at speeds of up to 160 km/ph, visitors will be able to cover large distances in a much shorter amount of time.
When the Maya Train service opens, it will also make some 62 self-guided tours easily accessible. These consist of one- to three-day itineraries focused on nature, culture, and the region’s magical towns. These ready-to-go trips will save tourists from spending precious vacation time planning ad hoc tours and outings and figuring out different modes of transport.
How much will the Maya Train cost?
Prices for using the Maya Train have yet to be published, but the Director General of the National Fund for the Promotion of Tourism (FONATUR), Rogelio Jiménez Pons, said that there will be two price levels in operation – one for locals and one for tourists.
To avoid pricing locals out of the new transport, tickets for Mexican nationals will be subsidized by the government. Without that subsidy, it’s likely tickets for tourists will be up to ten times more expensive. An example was given by Pons, who said: “We want a trip that costs what a worker from Cancun to Playa del Carmen spends, that is the same, that would be a subsidy, for a tourist between 40 and 50 dollars.”
How many trains will run and what will services be like?
According to the Bombardier-Alstom consortium which will oversee the manufacture of the trains, in total there will be 42 vehicles produced. It’s expected that six of those will be available at the time of the 2023 inauguration.
The carriage design is expected to be similar to European trains, with interiors offering simple but comfortable seating. There will be three types of service available, each named in Mayan:
- Xiinbal service (meaning ‘to walk’)
The regular passenger service is mainly aimed at local travelers, with business or standard class seats and a coffee shop.
- Janal service (meaning ‘to eat’)
Aimed at tourists, this service is similar to Xiinbal but with the addition of a full-service restaurant.
- P’atal service (meaning ‘to stay’)
Offering sleeping cabins as well as reclining seats, this service is aimed at travelers covering longer distances on the route.
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