MEXICO CITY — The environmental and financial costs of Mexico’s Maya Train tourism project are already massive, but authorities revealed another, unexpected cost of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s pet project on Tuesday.
The Defense Department said the project will require over 6,500 soldiers and National Guard officers to permanently guard its tracks and stations, out of the country’s total 166,000-member combined force.
Even though the railway is still under construction, the troops were already listed as assigned to the duty this week.
In comparison, that is more than double the number of officers assigned to drug eradication nationwide, and more officers than are assigned to all but three of Mexico’s 32 states.
The 6,500 number is similar to the 10,000 officers assigned to protect all sensitive government installations nationwide.
It was not immediately clear why so many guards would be needed. A similar number of Guard officers were deployed in the Mexico City subway last week after city authorities expressed fears of sabotage. However, the government hasn’t expressed any public concerns about sabotage on the Maya Train.
The 950-mile Maya Train line is meant to run in a rough loop around the Yucatán Peninsula, connecting beach resorts and archaeological sites.
Originally projected to cost around $8 billion, the train line now appears likely to rise to between $11 billion and $15 billion. Because no real feasibility studies were done, it is not clear whether the train will draw enough tourists or recoup its costs.
While some stretches of the train line run over existing tracks or alongside existing roads, other parts are being cut through the jungle, including a controversial stretch that cuts a 68-mile swath between the resorts of Cancún and Tulum.