How has the Tren Maya project evolved over the last year?
The train is a strategic infrastructure project for the southwest. We have many studies ongoing in many aspects that have yet to be defined. The number of stations has increased to 20 from 15 in 2019. The market is also requesting “paradores," or stations where trains only stop twice a day. It would depend on the needs of each municipality. We have also been in talks with the communities and have conducted many public surveys. The project has a high acceptance rate by the communities, typically above 80%. We have also implemented many communication strategies to publicize the project and help more citizens understand the program and clear up some of the prejudices around the project. There will be three services for this train: local passengers, foreign passengers, and cargo operations. Tourism services is expected to be a huge business. We have been in talks with international investors as well as tour sites operators around the world, and they have given us many tips and suggestions. The tourism sector seeks different services and is willing to pay more for better services. There is a broad range of economic possibilities. There is a possibility of developing a new airport in Tulum or shifting the current Mérida airport to a different location. We are evaluating all possibilities. We also have a long-term project related to the agro-industrial sector. We are discussing storage facilities in strategic locations where we can revitalize local economies with specialized products such as organic food that can reach other markets in the region. Storage facilities can also help us export some of the local crops and products, generating important infrastructure that is part of the logistics chain. The entire profile of the region will change as a result of all this. The economies of tourism-oriented cities like Cancún could diversify because there will be a more relevant industrial presence. It will be paramount as well to provide the best health and education services for the local population.
What have been the main challenges facing the project?
The largest challenge is that we had to do many things at the same time. Many developed countries take 10 years to develop these projects, but we had to do it in four because this change is needed. We had to invest heavily in planning managers and construction plans. Mexico has a 50-year delay in its railway infrastructure, and we are changing that by bringing in some of the best companies in the railway industry, including Spanish, Germany, and British companies. We also seek to have the best technology available. We have reached agreements with education institutions in the world in the railway industry to have trained workers. In less than 10 years, the project will create 1 million jobs.
What strategies are you implementing to attract private investment?
With such infrastructure, private investment arrives. We will have stations along the line, which will result in passenger traffic and greater opportunities for commercial businesses. The airport has a huge need for fuel that is currently being met via trucks. With the train, fuel needs can be covered via railway, bringing down fuel prices. Many logistic projects will also grow alongside the railway system. Hotels will offer services along the railway, and we also expect to have clinics at every station, hospitals at most stations, and educational institutions at some of the stops. This will be extremely beneficial for the population. These projects will be extremely attractive for private investors. At the same time, it is important to us for every project being developed that the environment is being protected. We want growth that does not affect the region's archeological heritage or rivers.