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Tren Maya

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Facundo Perez

Tren Maya is a railway project that aims to connect the main points of interest in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico. Its construction began in June 2020 and will be completed in sections. Currently, three of the seven total sections have been completed.

The Yucatan Peninsula is in southeastern Mexico, between the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. Traditionally, the area has been characterized mainly by its little development, focusing on agriculture. The little transportation infrastructure that existed consisted of a series of abandoned railway lines initially dedicated to the transportation of henequen (a plant from which natural fiber is obtained for the textile industry).

Thanks to its little development, the area has been able to maintain great environmental wealth. It is home to a multitude of species such as swamp crocodiles, flamingos, wild turkeys, and even large cats such as the puma or the jaguar (all of them categorized as under threat or in danger of extinction). As for the flora, in this area there are species such as the red mangrove, the disheveled mangrove or the yellow makulis (all under threat). However, in the second half of the 20th century, the peninsula became popular as a tourist destination. Since then, multiple hotels and urban developments have been built that have greatly deteriorated the environment.

The Mayan Train is a project that aims to connect Campeche, Tabasco, Yucatán, Quintana Roo and Chiapas, the main regions of the peninsula. It will have a length of 1,554 kilometers and its route is designed to cross the main points of interest in the region, starting with the airport. Its use will not be exclusively touristic, the infrastructure will also be used for transporting goods, although at a slower speed. It aims to transport more than 40,000 passengers daily.

Figure 1: Layout of Tren Maya (Source: Ineco)

The main objectives of the project are to strengthen and optimize the tourism industry, promote socioeconomic development and promote the territorial reorganization of the area. All this with the priority of minimizing possible harmful impacts. With these ideas in mind, the layout relies on existing infrastructure (roads or old railway tracks) whenever possible.

Despite this, the project has encountered numerous problems. Some of them are technical, but most are social or environmental. There have been numerous complaints about environmental problems. Residents of the area claim that they were not properly informed of the full implications of the project in the public information process and that substantial changes have been made after the fact. Furthermore, in the case of the indigenous population, they denounce that public information was not offered in their mother tongue.

The impacts can be divided according to whether they affect the biotic, abiotic, or socioeconomic environment.

Biotic environment.

The biotic environment is made up of living beings, flora and fauna. This environment in an area like the Yucatán Peninsula is of special importance since it is a place of abundant biodiversity. For example, it is one of the few habitats of the jaguar, which is a protected animal.

The clearing that is carried out during the railway construction phase has a strong impact due to the loss of vegetation cover. Although the route sometimes follows old railway tracks, the old route is modified on numerous occasions. Plus, the new infrastructure is noticeably wider, so earthworks need to be done anyway.

On the other hand, Tren Maya, like all linear infrastructures, generates enormous fragmentation of the territory. The impact on habitats due to changes in land use limits the size of the tiles and significantly reduces the effective habitat of the species that inhabit the area. In addition, it disproportionately harms migratory species.

Finally, the exploitation of the infrastructure itself will affect the fauna due to factors such as increased noise levels or atmospheric pollution. This will also occur during the execution phase.

Abiotic environment.

This medium refers to those elements of the system that are inert, but that influence biotic factors. Some of the impacts that the project will have are the alteration of landscape quality, the modification of surface runoff and the increase in acoustic levels during construction and operation. However, the greatest potential impact will be the impact on the aquifer, on which all the flora and fauna of the peninsula depends.

Socioeconomic environment.

The socioeconomic environment encompasses the population of the place and its activities. In infrastructure projects such as Tren Maya, there are usually two types of impacts, positive and negative.

The main positive impacts are the creation of permanent employment and improved accessibility. On the other hand, the main negative impacts are displacement due to expropriations, changes in the territorial distribution of the population due to migratory flows and urban expansion, the modification of economic flows and the effects on hundreds of archaeological finds in the area.

In general, Tren Maya shows how, despite being a means of transportation perceived as sustainable and environmentally friendly, it can and usually has a series of negative impacts on the territory, which must be assessed and managed correctly. Furthermore, the project highlights the importance of public information. Which must be transparent and must be taken into account in subsequent phases of the project.


Christine Beldon (2022). The $10BN Railway in the Jungle. Disponible en: [Consultado 02-05-2024] 

Consejo Nacional de Humanidades, Ciencias y Tecnologías (sin fecha). Manifestación de impacto ambiental modalidad regional del proyecto tren maya tramo 7. Disponible en:

Ineco (2020). Tren maya El Yucatán se conectará por ferrocarril. Disponible en: [Consultado 02-05-2024]

Instituto de Ingeniería UNAM (2022). Manifestación de impacto ambiental modalidad regional para el proyecto tramo 6 tren maya. Disponible en:

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