Map showing transportation networks in southern Mexico, highlighting routes with markers denoting key cities and checkpoints along the way.

All Aboard the Isthmus Train: Panama Canal’s New Rival

The Isthmus of Tehuantepec Interoceanic Corridor (CIIT), also known as the Isthmus Train, was launched in December 2023. This ambitious project aims to compete with the Panama Canal, providing an alternative route for the transportation of passengers and cargo across Mexico. The Isthmus Train operates on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec Railway's Z Line, which spans 212 kilometers from the port of Veracruz to Salina Cruz in the state of Oaxaca. This rail journey takes just three hours, coast to coast.

The Panama Canal has been the primary route for transferring goods between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans for over a century, with connections to ports in Mexico and the United States. The Isthmus Train also connects these oceans, linking the Atlantic from the port of Veracruz and the Pacific from the Salina Cruz port area.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has revealed that due to the Panama Canal's saturation, many Asian countries are showing interest in the Isthmus Train. This new railway will also connect with the Mayan Train, which serves ports in Campeche, Yucatan, and Quintana Roo, and shares a border with Guatemala.

During an event attended by President López Obrador and the prospective president-elect Claudia Sheinbaum, the progress of the Interoceanic Train was presented. CIIT's general manager, Admiral Raymundo Pedro Morales, stated that the project's goal is to enhance maritime trade. To achieve this, a logistics platform linking the ports of Coatzacoalcos and Salina Cruz has been implemented.

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Morales reported that the Z Line can currently transport cargo with trains of up to 65 cars and 260 containers per trip. Since its inauguration, approximately 70 thousand tons of various types of cargo have been moved. This figure is expected to rise as ports are equipped and railways are rehabilitated.

In terms of passenger transport, the Isthmus Train has already made 146 trips, transporting over 41,000 people. Morales also mentioned plans to rehabilitate railways to connect the Interoceanic Corridor with the Mayan Train and even Guatemala. He stated that these works have led to improvements in housing, urban development, farmer roads, and community agencies, benefiting local communities.

President López Obrador and Sheinbaum toured the stretch from Coatzacoalcos in Veracruz to Salina Cruz in Oaxaca. Sheinbaum emphasized the strategic importance of the Interoceanic Corridor of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec and pledged to continue supporting the project.