MEXICO CITY — Mexican commuters are furious over a disastrous design failure that has forced the closure of one of this huge city's busiest and newest subway lines.
Nearly half a million passengers have had to find alternative transportation after officials shut down most of Line 12, which runs about 15 miles from south of the capital toward its heart. It could take six months or more to repair all of the damage, said officials, who attributed most of the problems to train wheels that are incompatible with the rails.
This is only the latest scandal in an aging, notoriously rundown subway system plagued by crime, overcrowding and poor service.
Line 12 opened with much fanfare in 2012 by then-Mayor Marcelo Ebrard (albeit over budget and past deadline). Ebrard dubbed it the "Golden Line," and it was praised at the time as cleaner, more comfortable and something nearing efficient.
Ebrard today has egg on his face. "No one at the time told me anything!" he pleaded as he engaged in finger-pointing with builders, contractors, designers and current administrators of the metro. (One of the builders was a company belonging to Mexico's richest man, Carlos Slim.)
The timing of this setback could not be worse for Ebrard, who has presidential aspirations and is campaigning to take over leadership of his leftist Democratic Revolution Party.
Authorities have said it could cost nearly $40 million to repair the damaged section of the system.
Joel Ortega, director of the metro system, said in a news conference that it had become downright dangerous to ride Line 12.
"We have to admit that the deteriorating condition of the line is affecting its operation," he said. "We already were reducing speeds, and changing velocity is damaging the equipment .… Safety is of prime importance."
With all its troubles and discomforts, the vast subway network serves as a lifeline to millions of Mexicans who must traverse one of the world's largest and most traffic-choked cities to reach jobs and school.
The Line 12 crisis follows by just 10 weeks a fare hike for the metro that also had Mexicans hopping mad — literally. Many staged a short-lived movement of jumping over turnstiles to avoid paying the higher fare.
Some Mexicans polled at the time said they would accept the hike only if it led to real improvements in the battered underground. And it's clear Line 12 was not quite what they had in mind.