published : 2023-11-08
Mexican President to Force Rail Companies to Offer Passenger Service
President López Obrador denies concerns of expropriation
Mexico's president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has announced that he will require private rail companies, primarily focused on freight, to offer passenger service. If they refuse, the government will schedule its own trains on their tracks.
President López Obrador denies any notion that this decree amounts to expropriation of private property, stating that it is within the Constitution and the law. According to existing law, passenger trains have priority.
Following a 1995 reform that gave concessions to two private railway companies, Ferromex and Kansas City Southern (a subsidiary of U.S. railway), regular passenger service has nearly disappeared in Mexico. Only a few tourist trains operate on short, unconnected routes to popular attractions.
President López Obrador is known for his fondness for passenger trains, as well as state-owned companies. In fact, he recently announced the creation of a government-run airline to be managed by the army.
The ambitious project of his administration is the construction of the Maya Train, a $20 billion, 950-mile line that aims to connect beach resorts and archaeological sites on the Yucatán Peninsula.
As of now, the rail companies have not responded to the president's plan to implement passenger trains if given the first opportunity. It is unclear whether the companies would receive any government subsidies for this service.
It is important to note that most passenger railway services around the world receive subsidies, as very few are able to sustain themselves financially.
Additionally, President López Obrador has emphasized that the railway network would need to be electrified for passenger service, considering that most freight trains currently operate with diesel or diesel-electric locomotives.
Conflicting schedules, train speeds, stations, and rolling stock present challenges if passenger and freight trains share the same tracks.
Given the limited number of inner-city train tracks and stations in Mexico, the national railway company, which provided poor and inefficient service, was privatized and taken over by concessionary operators before the current reforms were proposed.