We recently gushed in this space about the tender issue for the project to build a passenger train between Mexico City and the nearby city of Toluca. As we insisted repeatedly in that post, we think this is a good thing, but frankly we don’t expect to be running back and forth to Toluca much, train or no. Querétaro, however, is another matter, which is why we are now plotzing with glee to report that the Communications and Transport Ministry (SCT) has published the tender for construction of the high-speed train intended to link Mexico City with Querétaro.
The city of Querétaro is the center of a booming industrial zone in Mexico’s central Bajío region. There is an enormous volume of vehicle traffic between Mexico City and this area every day, and it is only getting worse as aerospace, automotive manufacturing and their supporting industries continue to grow like wildfire. The area also offers wonderful weekend getaway opportunities for stressed out capitalinos, with touristy small cities such as San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato and Tequisquiapan – as well as Querétaro itself – all in proximity. The area just north of Tequisquiapan, a fairly short drive from Querétaro, has become popular as a weekend destination for its wineries and artisanal cheese producers. Access to all of these activities, whether business or recreation, will improve significantly with direct passenger train service from Mexico City to Querétaro, and likewise access to the capital will increase for the Bajío as well.
The official SCT announcement accompanying the tender issue anticipates the project will require investment of approximately US$3 billion, with service targeted to begin in the second half of 2017. The government has intimated in the press that companies from China, Japan, Korea, Germany, Canada and the United States have all expressed interest in the project. Promo information on the high-speed line claims it will cover the 210 km route between Mexico City and Querétaro in 58 minutes. That would be ultra-fabulous of course but we are not holding our breath on the speed, completion date, cost, ticket price or just about anything else being projected at this point. We’ll be jumping for joy just to get a reasonably decent passenger train running the route by 2020.
Suspending our doubts for a moment and imagining that this time we will get our long-desired passenger train, a couple questions come to mind. The first is, seriously, how many cows, or people, is this thing going to run over in the first few years? The Caltrain line between San Francisco and San Jose is notching fatalities at around one per month, not counting squirrels and raccoons, and that’s in California, where public transit is supposed to be safe. To be honest we do not have a great track record with transit safety here, so that will be a concern. And secondly, what kind of wine will they serve on this new high-speed train? Will they go national and offer only domestic, with specials highlighting Bajío area wines? Will they go cheap, and offer one junky Chilean red, take it or leave it? Will our dream come all the way true, with the FinTimes and chilled Chassagne-Montrachet on offer? Something tells us we may be disappointed, but with service startup officially targeted for 2017, we should have a good number of years to fantasize about a bold new world of inter-city transit in Mexico.