The metro system in Mexico City, the country’s sprawling capital, carries more than four million passengers a day and is the second largest in America after New York. And when it was inaugurated in 1969 and adorned with Aztec artifacts and Mayan-style friezes, it was a nation’s pride.
But in recent years it has become a symbol of urban decay.
There were concerns about the integrity of the elevated tracks and support columns on the line where the accident occurred on Monday after a major earthquake in Mexico in September 2017.
The subway line’s increased infrastructure – known as Line 12 or the Golden Line – has been damaged, El Universal newspaper reported.
Later that month, some local residents told El Universal that they feared the damaged infrastructure could collapse. The newspaper reported at the time that a column between the Olivos and Nopalera stations had suffered structural damage. It was also reported that engineers should perform an ultrasound scan of the rebar in 300 columns along the elevated section of Line 12.
It was not immediately clear what work was being done to address the safety concern. However, in recent years the system has declined sharply.
The Golden Line, where the accident occurred on Monday, opened in 2012 and is the newest in the system. Still, it was fraught with problems from the start.
Trains traveling over elevated parts of the route had to slow down for fear of derailing. And just 17 months after the $ 2 billion line was inaugurated, the city shut down much of the service.
Service was later restored, but concerns about the entire system have grown.
Last month, one of the capital’s 12 underground lines was shut down after a track fire. And in January, a fire ripped apart the downtown subway headquarters, killed a police officer and sent 30 more people to hospital with smoke inhalation. Six subway lines were temporarily taken offline.
Opposition parties blamed the inferno for lack of maintenance, and the conservative National Action Party filed a criminal complaint against Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum and the head of Mexico City’s subway.
In March 2020, one person was killed and at least 41 others injured when two subways collided in Mexico City. Ms. Sheinbaum said at the time that one of the trains had apparently returned to the other. The video of the wreck showed that, according to Reuters, one of the trains got stuck on top of each other due to the force of the collision.
The next month, at Misterios station, a rail coupler – a mechanism for connecting wagons – broke en route to its destination. Although the incident resulted in no deaths, workers called for more safety measures, El Universal reported.
Another derailment in 2018 sent shock waves through a suburb of Mexico City. A train carrying cargo pulled off the tracks and one of its cars hit a house, killing five people.
The most recent serious accident occurred in 2015 when 12 people died in a collision between two trains. In 1975 another train collision at Viaducto station killed 31 people and left more than 70 injured, according to El Universal.