We knew it. As soon as we ordered up our Chassagne-Montrachet for the ride to Querétaro on the recently proposed high-speed passenger train, the whole pharaonic project has been taken off the table by the same officials who had announced it with such fanfare. Once again, Mexico is left vestido y alborotado, or “all dressed up and in a tizzy,” by perfidious authorities as our dreams of joining the glamorous world of 20th century rail travel are dashed.
To summarize: Mexico used to have slow and outdated passenger rail lines between a few cities, but this service was discontinued in 1994, leaving the country with no inter-city passenger rail service. In 2014, the administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto announced that tenders would be issued for the construction of three modern passenger rail lines, including one from Mexico City to the central industrial hub of Querétaro. Last November, the government announced that a consortium led by the China Railway Construction Corporation had won the contract and that we would be off to the races, clickety clack and all that. But it was not to be, as a hue and cry was immediately raised to point out that 1) The Chinese-led group was the only bidder for the contract; and 2) One of the leading members of the consortium was a Mexican company that, we learned, had recently delivered luxury mansions to President Peña’s wife and to his Finance Minister, a close collaborator. This all could have been on the up and up of course – in some universe – but the media and citizenry weren’t having it, and the tender was cancelled shortly thereafter. The administration announced a new, presumably less rigged, tender would be published in mid-January. But alas, January came and went and finally the government mumbled under its breath that, you know, with oil prices dropping and whatnot, really we need to shelve this whole train project until a better time at an undetermined point in the future. Pundits are now opining that the topic may not be revisited until the next presidential administration, which, to quote Bob Mankoff, is to say, How’s never? Is never good for you?
We are crestfallen now, like a child whose birthday trip to the pony ranch was scotched due to inclement weather. We were such fools to fall for their fancy talk, and allow our hopes to be raised, only for our ears to burn as the harsh sound of mocking laughter engulfs us. We will move on now, our lesson learned, but we will not forget the bitter taste of our twentieth century-era inter-city mass transit system tears.