MEXICO CITY (AP) – President Enrique Peña Nieto has canceled a $3.7 billion high-speed rail concession granted this week to a Chinese-led consortium amid criticisms that it was the only bidder.
A government statement released late Thursday said the process will be reopened to give others a chance at the project.
The decision aims "to give more time and foster the participation of a greater number of train manufacturers, and to fortify absolute clarity, legitimacy and transparency," the statement said.
Mexico's first high-speed rail line is intended to cover the 130 miles (210 kilometers) between Mexico City and the central city of Queretaro, reducing a 2 1/2 hour trip by highway to just under an hour by rail. Officials say it would travel at about 186 mph (300 kph) and carry 27,000 passengers a day.
The manner in which the concession was awarded has been criticized by some opposition lawmakers.
Sen. Marcela Torres Peimbert of Queretaro state said 16 companies had withdrawn from bidding after their requests for more time than the 60-day window were rejected by the government.
"Nobody is against the train, but the way in which public money is spent must be watched very closely," she said.
Sen. Javier Corral Jurado, also of the opposition National Action Party, questioned whether people or companies with ties to Pena Nieto or his Institutional Revolutionary Party may have had an advantage.
Communications and Transportation Secretary Gerardo Ruiz Esparza said reopening the bidding will clear up any concerns.
"Soon there will be a new process in which there will be no doubt and the project will not be questioned, and which will count on absolute clarity," he said.
The winning consortium included China Railway Construction Corp. and the Mexican firms Constructora y Edificadora GIA, GHP Infraestructura Mexicana, Prodemex and Constructora Teya.
Calls to China Railway Construction Corp. were unanswered Friday, an off-work day in Beijing. A man who answered the phone at CSR Corporation Ltd., a Chinese partner for the bidding, said he was unaware of the cancellation.
The Mexican government has sought to revive passenger train travel, which was largely abandoned in the country in the 1990s.