Construction of the first 951km phase of Mexico's Mayan Train project is set to begin in April after the government revealed the tendering process for the controversial scheme.
The first phase of the $US 7.4bn project will run from Palenque in Chiapas State to Cancún in Quintana Roo passing through Tabasco, Campeche and Yucatán states. This stage will consist of five sections with Mr Rogelio Jiménez, president of the National Fund for Tourism Protection (Fonatur) revealing the tendering process for each during President Andres Manuel López Obrador's daily news conference on January 24.
Tenders for section one, which will run from Palenque to Escárcega, and section two from Escárcega to Calkiní will be issued on February 7 via the Mexican government's CompraNet online platform. Winners will be announced on April 17 and construction is expected to start on April 30, 2020.
Tenders for section three, from Calkini to Izamal, will be available from February 21, and construction will begin on May 18. The tender for section four, which will run from Izamal to Tulum, will be launched on February 28, with works scheduled to start on May 25. Finally, the tender for section five from Tulum to Cancun, will be issued on March 6, with construction scheduled to start on May 25.
A workshop for parties interested in the project was held on January 22 and attracted 85 companies, including from Brazil, Canada, China, Portugal and Spain.
Development of the Mayan Train project, which was first proposed in 2012, was a campaign promise of Lopez Obrador. The president is targeting increased tourism and economic development in the region by connecting isolated communities, with the line estimated to bring three million tourists to the Yucatan peninsula.
However, it has faced opposition from environmental groups and the influential Mayan political group EZLN Zapatista. The project was scaled back in June 2019 by revising the 55km Cancun - Valladolid section, which will save $US 287m in costs.
A proposed 388% immigration services tax hike to fund the project was rejected by Mexico's Senate in November, under pressure from business groups about the possible impact on tourism.