Many Americans and Canadians love riding trains. While the use of practical trains for commuting is returning, far more interesting are the tour trains that run through picturesque locations with beautiful scenery and stopping at interesting little towns.
Why We Love Trains So Much
For myself, I remember riding a train through the countryside back home, seeing the fields and forests roll by, and also the pictures of the trains running through tunnels in enormous mountains, or following a river through a green valley. I never rode on those ones, but I always wanted to.
Trains in Mexico
Here in Mexico, up in the north of the country, in the state of Chihuahua, there’s the Copper Canyon train with splendid views of rivers, cliffs and forests. There’s also the Tequila Valley train offering scenery and tours of the communities in Jalisco where the famous liquor was invented.
What about a Train to the Beach, to Mayan Pyramids or a Colonial City?
Here’s some good news that you may have heard about. There are currently plans to build a train across the Yucatan Peninsula. It will start at the beaches of the Riviera Maya, at Punta Venado, just south of Playa del Carmen (or about an hour south of Cancun) to the Mayan ruins of Coba and Chichen Itza, with a stop the quaint colonial Mayan town of Valladolid in between, then to the splendid city of Merida and finally the charming beachfront city of Campeche, which is surrounded by walls built to protect against invading pirates. This last stretch will be completed as a second phase down the road, and will include a stop at yet another incredible Mayan ruin site called Uxmal. I think there may also be plans for a route out to Progreso, the beachfront town about 30 minutes from Merida.
That would be a simply beautiful train ride!
Besides the practicality of another reliable and low-priced way to travel across the Peninsula, the views would include the lush, green jungle, the ancient pyramids, all but forgotten Mayan towns and the romance of Mexico’s colonial cities.
So, Is This Really Going to Happen?
It’s hard to say when this train will actually come into existence. The plan has been around for a while, and it’s been put on hold several times.
The good news is that the plan has actually taken some important steps forward in the past few months.
In December, the plan was approved and endorsed by Mexico’s new President, Enrique Pena Nieto. This was among his first initiatives, his first month in office. In just a few months, this President has already established a reputation for getting things done – quickly and efficiently. He has already modified the constitution, begun drastic improvement of the country’s education and started economic reform that has given international observers and investors confidence that the country’s annual growth will soon increase to 7% (up from the current 4%.)
When this President says there will be a train in Yucatan, it gives me confidence that there’s at least a much better likelihood of it becoming reality in the foreseeable future.
New Train Programs Take Years of Planning and Large-Scale Investment
Since starting a new train route requires infrastructure, planning and millions of dollars of investment (about $1.5 billion to be exact, or 15-20 billion pesos), it’s not something that happens overnight. In April the states in question held meetings to begin making plans. The bidding for the private contract is expected to start at the end of this year.
The new train routes will serve both passenger and cargo purposes, passengers in the day time and cargo in the night.
According to news reports, Standard & Poor’s has indicated that the Trans-peninsular train project is more viable and would actually bring more benefits to the entire Peninsula than a new international airport – specifically the one which had been planned for Tulum a few years back, but left hanging indefinitely. This “vote of confidence” from S&P is also a good indication!
My guess is that the train would also do more to continue drawing more tourism and encouraging travel throughout the Peninsula; there is already excellent air access, and, on the other hand, the lure of travel by train is a very appealing one!
Let’s Hope …
Personally, I love the idea of riding a train across the Yucatan. I’m really hoping that this becomes reality!