Social Issues

Mexico City metro disaster severs key transport link for low-income residents

By Ines Amarelo

Mexico City, May 6 (EFE).- The deadly collapse of a metro overpass in Mexico’s capital that left at least 25 dead and 40 hospitalized also cut off a crucial means of transportation for residents of heavily populated, low-income areas of the capital’s periphery.

“(Line 12) connected us to them, linked us to the city. We felt like defeños, chilangos (as residents of Mexico City are known),” said 58-year-old Carlos Martinez, a longtime resident of the area where the accident occurred.

The overpass collapsed on Monday between the Olivos and Tezonco metro stations, causing a train to plunge about 15 meters (50 feet) onto Tlahuac Avenue at a spot not far from the dividing line between Mexico City’s eastern boroughs of Iztapalapa and Tlahuac.

Both are among the most populous but also most marginalized areas of a sprawling metropolis where more than 30 percent of the population is below the poverty line, according to the National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy, and levels of inequality are alarming.

In the case of Tlahuac, its residents had devoted themselves to the farming of maize, fruit and vegetables for many years but gradually started commuting daily to the city to work at different jobs.

“We rejected (the greater ties) at first because the original inhabitants felt they were being invaded, but later we realized that progress had to come and we had to be connected to the city,” Martinez, a mason by profession, said.

Many of the laborers who work daily in central Mexico City reside in the capital’s southeast and had to embark on an hours-long commute prior to the 2012 inauguration of Line 12, known as the Golden Line and the metro system’s newest.

“We felt provincial, we felt like we were cast-offs. Then when we could ride the metro and go as far as Mixcoac … we saw that the cost and commuting times fell,” he said.

The ability to reach the capital’s downtown in just a half hour was a veritable sea change for many of Tlahuac’s residents, but the deadly May 3 accident once again has left roughly 220,000 people without convenient access to their places of work.

“This is hurting thousands of people. Sometimes people lose their jobs because they arrived late, and the bosses really don’t care that much,” Romualdo Flores, a resident of that borough, said while waiting for a bus to take him to his destination.

Flores had been using Line 12 on a daily basis to get to work and now is exasperated by the long commute by bus.

“You don’t know what to do now because it was less time with the metro and now with everything that’s happening, and if the government doesn’t do its part, it’s even worse. Now there’s no trust in the government or in public transport,” Flores added.

Line 12, the signature infrastructure project of former Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard (now Mexico’s foreign affairs secretary), has been mired in controversy from the outset.

The line ended up costing much more than initially projected, and service was partially suspended between 2014 and 2015 due to numerous failures affecting trains and tracks.

In recent years, local residents also had denounced cracks in the Tlahuac overpass following the powerful Sept. 19, 2017, earthquake – warnings that fell on deaf ears and led to this week’s tragedy. EFE


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