Annus horribilis

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Mexico City’s metro system has had a horrible past 14 months. One incident after another has affected the metro, with many victims resulting from them.

Collision

First, on March 10, 2020, two trains collided in Tacubaya station. One person was killed in that crash, and many more were injured. The accident occurred when the the first train, already in the tunnel, received an order to stop. The conductor didn’t follow standard operating procedures to safely keep the train stopped, and eventually the train lost all brakes and slid backwards down the tunnel back into the station, crashing into another train that was at the platform.

You can see the train rolling backwards near the end of this tweet; apparently it picked up speed until it was rolling at about 70 km/h when it crashed into the other train.

Control Center Fire

On January 9th, 2021, there was a fire at the PCCI (Puesto Central de Control I, Central Control Center I), which serves as the communications and control center for lines 1 through 6. One policewoman subsequently died after falling (or jumping?) from the burning building, with many other workers injured, especially by smoke inhalation. The fire was caused by a short circuit in two electrical substations, and knocked out all communications for those lines. They were out of service for several weeks, causing transit chaos in the city.

Line 4 Fire

Just a couple of weeks ago, on April 23rd, 2021, there was another fire, this time on the track of the elevated Line 4. This was a much smaller event than the fire at the control center but still worrisome.

Line 12 Collapse

Late last night, May 3, 2021, the 2nd deadliest incident happened (the deadliest was a train collision in 1975 in which 31 people were killed). The death toll right stands at 24 people, with 50+ injured. A section of the elevated railway for Line 12 collapsed. See more articles and photos in English on the BBC and in Spanish in La Jornada.

The collapse happened between Olivos and Tezonco stations on Line 12, the last line built in the system.

Line 12 has been plagued with issues since it opened in 2012. A section was closed for almost 2 years shortly after it was opened for repairs and corrections of deficiencies, and other parts have seen major work done to fix problems. The 2017 earthquake in Mexico City also caused damage to the elevated section. You can see details (in Spanish) of these issues on Wikipedia.

After this incident, several tweeters posted images of other parts of the network (not on Line 12) that showed serious issues. For example, near Oceanía:

Causes

I am not an expert in construction methods, obviously, but many commentators allude to these issues:

  • Lack of funding for maintenance
  • Lack of funding for employee training
  • Shoddy construction of Line 12 in particular, with corruption and cost-cutting being the primary reasons mentioned

I don’t have any clever solutions or clear certainties that explain the ongoing issues facing the STC. I only hope that this disaster will lead to permanent changes in practices, greater funding for the system and its maintenance, and long-term structural changes in how these projects are constructed.

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