Mexico's rail network has changed dramatically for the better over the last couple of years, Godinez said. Since privatization of the system in the late 1990s, companies have invested at least $5bn in track improvements, increased capacity and other efficiencies.
Private ownership has resulted in the system increasing its share of total tonnage in Mexico from 18 percent to nearly 30 percent. Rail volumes doubled in the period from 1996 to 2000. The change also saw the addition of double-stack service, where trailer-on-flatcar transportation was the only option on most lines previously.
The first big user of stack trains in Mexico was the automotive industry, generating dedicated trains moving between U.S. and Mexican manufacturing plants. In recent years, the option has also attracted freight from the consumer goods and construction sectors.
The potential for further conversion of truck freight to intermodal is “huge,” Godinez says. “It’s the next frontier of intermodal transportation in North America.”
Mexico railroads still must cope with a marked imbalance in freight flows, with loads moving north from Monterrey and the northeastern portion of the country exceeding those coming south by nearly four times, Godinez says. The ratio is as bad as three to one in other areas, “and getting worse.”
While the number of miles of track in the Mexican rail system hasn’t increased, the quality and efficiency of service is far greater than before. Intermodal moves from the border to Monterrey now take 24 hours, with a time variance of no more than 2 to 5 percent, Godinez says.
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