MEXICO’s president, Mr Andrés Manuel López Obrador, presented the first refurbished diesel-electric locomotive for the Isthmus of Tehuantepec railway rehabilitation project on August 17.

The locomotive is a former Union Pacific EMD SD70M unit built in 2001 and rebuilt by Metro East Industries in East St Louis, United States.

The Isthmus of Tehuantepec Interoceanic Corridor (CIIT) project is aimed at providing a rail link between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans as an alternative to the congested Panama Canal.

The project involves upgrading the 303km line between Coatzacoalcos in Veracruz state on the Gulf of Mexico and Salina Cruz in the state of Oaxaca on the Pacific coast. The work, which is expected to be completed by the end of this year, will raise the line speed from 20km/h to 70km/h for freight trains and 100km/h for passenger trains. Test running is expected to start on September 17.

The project also includes modernising and expanding the ports at Coatzacoalcos and Salina Cruz, and the Minatitlán and Salina Cruz oil refineries in southern Mexico.

Coatzacoalcos is served by a train ferry to Mobile, United States, operated by a joint venture of Genesee & Wyoming and Seacor Holdings.

The CIIT project also involves upgrading the rail link from Coatzacoalcos to Palenque, where it will connect with the Mayan Train project, and the 459km Line K that connects Ixtepec in Oaxaca with Ciudad Hidalgo in Chiapas, near the border with Guatemala.

The US Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) has invited bids by October 6 to prepare a feasibility study for an intermodal rail terminal in Chiapas state. Funding for the studies will come from USTDA, which on July 24 granted Chiapas Labour and Economy Ministry $US 960,000 to help it plan the project.

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