Developing Transport Infrastructure to Support Industry: Mexico

Pursuant to the Mexican National Development Plan, as well as the Fifth Government Report prepared by the Mexican government, dated 1 September 2017, one of the main goals of the Mexican government is to have transport infrastructure that allows for lower costs in carrying out economic activities, being internationally competitive.2

General overview

The aim of the transport infrastructure is to increase competitiveness in Mexico and facilitate the movement of merchandise.

According to recent information provided by the Mexican Ministry of Economy, some of the most relevant economic facts about Mexico are:3

  • Mexico's GDP ranks 14th in the world, with its economy accounting for 1.7 per cent of the global total;
  • between January and June 2018, Mexico had imports of approximately US$223.6 billion;
  • between January and June 2018, Mexico had exports of approximately US$219 billion dollars;
  • between January and June 2018, Mexico had direct foreign investment of US$17,842.3 billion, an amount that represents an increase of 14 per cent compared to the same period in 2017.

The amount was reported by 2,392 companies with foreign capital participation. From these companies, the most relevant industries based in Mexico that had foreign investments were: (i) manufacturing, 43.1 per cent; (ii) financial services, 19.4 per cent; (iii) electric industry, water and gas, 8.4 per cent; (iv) commerce, 8.2 per cent; (v) mining, 6.3 per cent; and (v) additional industries, 14.6 per cent.4

According to the World Economic Forum, Mexico is ranked 51 out of 140 countries based on the Competitiveness Index.5 Regarding infrastructure, it is ranked number 62 and includes:

  • quality of overall infrastructure: 71;
  • quality of roads: 52;
  • quality of railway: 65;
  • port infrastructure: 62;
  • air transport infrastructure: 67;
  • quality of electricity supply: 72;
  • mobile phone subscriptions: 108; and
  • fixed telephone lines: 67.

Currently, the Mexican transport infrastructure includes:6

  • 377,660km of highways and additional roads within the country, plus 6,500km that were constructed in the past six years;
  • 26,727km of railways across the country;
  • 76 airports, 1,388 airfields and 408 heliports; and
  • 117 ports and terminals; and
  • additionally, in connection with the energy industry, the current transport infrastructure includes 26,854km of oil and gas pipelines.7

Transport infrastructure development has been a priority for the Mexican government. Pursuant to the latest report issued by the federal government by means of the Communications and Transport Ministry, during the second semester of 2017, three additional freeways were completed to bring the total number of highways constructed in recent years to 38, which represent approximately US$184 billion pesos of investment and an additional 2,400km of roads. During the same period, eight additional highways were constructed with investment of approximately 56 billion pesos bringing the total number to 76, and providing an additional 3,100km of roads.

Some of the most representative transport infrastructure projects under construction or projected to be developed within the next few years are detailed below.8


The new Mexican International Airport is currently under construction. It is one of the biggest and most important infrastructure projects in the past decades, with an estimated investment of 180,123 billion pesos.9 In its initial stage, it is projected to accommodate 68 million passengers and 740,000 operations per year. The main aspects of the project include:

  • 90 fixed gates;
  • 30 remote positions;
  • three operational tracks with a maximum development of six operational tracks; and
  • two terminals.

Its operation is proposed for 2020.

Additional actions have been carried out to increase the current airport infrastructure:

  • extension of some gates connected to terminal 2 to increase more users per hour.
  • modernisation of the Chetumal airport;
  • renovation of the Poza Rica airport;
  • rehabilitation of the Atlangatepec, Tlaxcala airport;
  • completion of the new airport in the Istmo region;
  • modernisation of the airport in Atlangatepec, Tlaxcala;
  • modernisation of various airports located in Monterrey; Mexicali; Acapulco; Reynosa; San Luis Potosi; Chihuahua; and Tampico;
  • modernisation of the Cancun international airport (the second most important airport in Mexico) in which a fourth terminal was completed in October 2017 to accommodate 8 million passengers annually;
  • modernisation of the Hermosillo airport; and
  • modernisation of the Guadalajara airport, which was concluded in November 2017 with the extension of terminal 1.

According to official information, as of 30 June 2018, 31 per cent of the construction of the new Mexican International Airport has been completed.10

According to official information, from September 2016 to June 2017, 588.6 million tons of merchandise were transported by aircraft. Additionally, an estimated 90 million passengers travelled by air.

In order to support the industry, the government aims to develop regional airports and improve their interconnection under schemes to guarantee their operation.


Many new highways have been developed in order to connect different states and cities.

From December 2012 to June 2017, the modernisation of 700km of roads was carried out, with investments of 28 billion pesos.

Between September 2016 and June 2017, 17 commitments related to highway infrastructure were concluded, including the modernisation and construction of 250km of highways costing approximately 27,600 billion pesos.

In addition, from September 2016 to June 2017, 7,117km of agrarian highways were also constructed for approximately 8,340 billion pesos.11


From January to June 2017, 20,906 billion pesos were invested in different projects, mainly in connection with urban railways and the construction of railways in the states of Guanajuato, Colima, Durango, Jalisco, Chiapas, Aguascalientes and Tamaulipas.

Some of the main projects are the intercity train Mexico–Toluca, which is 58 per cent completed; and the Guadalajara electric urban train, which is 81 per cent completed. Five additional projects have been promoted with investments of 10,551 billion pesos: Celaya–Guanajuato; Manzanillo–Colima; Durango terminal railway; Chiapas and Mayab; and Matamoros–Tamaulipas.

Urban transportation

Urban infrastructure construction has been supported by federal, local and municipal governments. From January to June 2017, investment of 18,009 billion pesos was made, mainly in Guadalajara (extension of the electric urban train), Mexico–Toluca (construction of the intercity railway), Monterrey (extension of four subway lines), Mexico (new cable railway).

Intercity railways are expected to transport an estimated 230,000 passengers a day. As of December 2017, the installation of the railway is reported as 82 per cent complete. The government expects to begin operational tests during 2018.

The Guadalajara urban route is expected to transport 233,000 passengers daily. As of June 2018, the project registered a global completion of 96 per cent.


Among the most relevant projects in this sector that have seen important progress are:

  • the modernisation of Ensenada port;
  • the modernisation of Guaymas port;
  • the rehabilitation of Topolobambo port to increase storage areas;
  • the rehabilitation of Mazatlán port to ensure the security of operations;
  • the construction of a passenger's terminal in Puerto Vallarta port for 900,000 passengers per year;
  • the rehabilitation of Manzanillo port to ensure the security of the operations;
  • the construction of new docks in Salina Cruz port;
  • the construction of new storage warehouses in Tampico port; and
  • construction of the new Veracruz port, which, as of the second semester of 2017, had a 74 per cent per cent of advance regarding the navigation channel . Several agreements related to works for this port have already been signed.

Lazaro Cardenas Port

From September 2016 to June 2017, government invested 9,190 billion pesos. Modernisation and construction of ports is a priority for the federal government. During this time, 247.5 million tons were moved, which represents a 3 per cent increase from the same period during 2016.

Currently, three port projects are at the development stage:

  • the construction of a passenger terminal in Puerto Vallarta;
  • the modernisation of Ciudad del Carmen port (currently with a 88 per cent of advance); and
  • the modernisation of Mazatlán port.

All executed and projected works are intended to increase the installed capacity to 470 million tons per year.

As of December 2017, the National Port System has an installed capacity of 479 million tons.

Private participation in the development of transport infrastructure

Private investments for the development of infrastructure have gained particular relevance in the past years. Many government projects have involved private participation by means of special schemes and mechanisms that have allowed private companies to partially fund important projects. This does not just involve transport infrastructure such as highways, ports, airports and pipelines, which have made new important investments possible throughout Mexico in different industries, but also social infrastructure, such as hospitals and health clinics.

Public-partnership associations (PPAs)

On 16 January 2012, the Public–Private Partnership Law was published in the Mexican Federal Official Gazette.12 The main purpose of the Law was to allow and regulate private participation in the development of projects and activities in which free participation of the private sector is allowed.

On 21 April 2016, modifications to the Public–Private Partnership Law were published in the Federal Official Gazette in order to give more flexibility to the authorisation procedure referred to therein.

Some of the main benefits of this law include the following.

  • It allows the government to avoid or defer infrastructure costs without giving up their benefits. This offers the chance of achieving greater efficiency in the construction of infrastructure, and reduces state costs.
  • It encourages new technologies, leading to better-quality projects and accelerated progress in building infrastructure, while promoting competition and competitiveness among private consortiums.
  • It provides security and certainty to private actors and companies in long and complex infrastructure projects.

On 20 February 2017, modifications to the Regulations of the Public–Private Partnership Law were published in the Federal Official Gazette to give more flexibility to the process related to the submission of projects, as well as to define the index related to the social, financial and economic profitability of the projects.

In Mexico, PPAs have been used by the Ministry of Communications and Transportation, mostly for the construction of highways, using the scheme given above.

In the 2018 federal budget,13 the Mexican Congress approved 34,576.6 billion pesos for the execution of projects under the PPA scheme.

Strengthening of the transportation infrastructure within Mexico has been a main objective of the government, which aims to create a logistical platform to support the activity of industries and the movement of the merchandise they produce.

In March 2017,14 the federal government announced a strategy to promote PPA projects in Mexico in order to develop new infrastructure, mainly related to transportation, security, education, healthcare and water. These projects have been divided into two blocks that comprise ongoing tenders and tenders expected to be called soon.

The estimated investment for the projects referred to below is US$58.261 billion pesos.

These projects include the maintenance of existing highways and the construction of new highways.


Concession schemes have been used by the government for different transport services such as airports and railways, as well as for the construction of highways.

From 2012 to June 2017, concession title holders have invested approximately 14 billion pesos in more than 28 airports. This includes, among other infrastructure works, the construction of new airport terminals, and modernisation of existing infrastructure.

Additionally, much of the current highway transport infrastructure has been constructed by means of the concession scheme, which includes the development, construction, operation and maintenance of the infrastructure constructed under this scheme.

The concession scheme has been one of the most important schemes of recent years, implemented by the government to construct and expand the land transport network.

The National Infrastructure Fund and the National Development Bank

The National Infrastructure Fund (FONADIN) is a major trust created by the Mexican government that mostly aims to fund and support infrastructure projects, among others, in areas such as transportation and communication, natural resources, water and tourism.

According to official information, from September 2016 to June 2017, FONADIN has granted economic support of approximately 20.4 billion pesos for infrastructure projects with a high economic and social impact. Such investments totalled approximately 31 billion pesos.

Pursuant to information released by FONADIN, FONADIN has supported highway relevant projects in different Mexican states by means of different financial schemes with investments of approximately 8.2 billion pesos.

Regarding support to develop massive transportation infrastructure, from 1 September 2016 to June 2017, FONADIN granted 1,527.3 billion pesos for diverse studies and projects, which led to investments of 4,521.5 billion pesos. The main project related to this support was the extension of line 5 of the urban transportation system known as 'Metrobus' in Mexico City and the transportation system of Cuernavaca, which will benefit approximately 108,000 passengers per day.

The Mexican National Development Bank (BANOBRAS) is in charge of financing infrastructure projects in Mexico, and supports infrastructure projects by means of two business lines:

  • sub-national finance:
    • packaging small clients into bankable financial vehicles; and
    • cooperating with commercial banks through financial guarantees; and
  • project finance:
    • tailoring financing to reduce the risk on the projects' early stages; and
    • cooperating with commercial banks through financial guarantees and loan syndications.

From January to June 2017, BANOBRAS granted credits for a total amount of 16.367 billion pesos, which represented 26.5 per cent of the annual goal of 2017. Twenty-one per cent of the credits granted were for the development of transport infrastructure (including highways and ports). Additionally, BANOBRAS has begun supporting telecommunication infrastructure, including the share network, the biggest telecommunications project in Mexico.

FIBRA-Es and certificates for projects investments: new financing structure

In September 2015, Mexico's President announced the creation of two new financing vehicles for energy and infrastructure projects. Such vehicles are known as 'FIBRA-Es' and 'certificates for project investments'.

FIBRA-Es are expected to work in a similar fashion to those applicable to real estate projects, or to master limited partnerships, with the exception that FIBRA-Es were created specifically for energy and infrastructure projects.

On 17 September 2015, the National Banking and Securities Commission published a preliminary draft of the regulations applicable to the FIBRA-E through the Federal Commission for Regulatory Improvement. Simultaneously, the Mexican Tax Authority published the tax regime for the FIBRA-E on its web portal.

FIBRA-E operates in a similar way to a trust, in which a financial institution acting as trustee issues values in the form of stock market certificates of energy and infrastructure. Additionally, the trustor or sponsor contributes to the FIBRA-E by means of its share participation in qualifying Mexican companies devoted exclusively to operating assets related to hydrocarbons, power and infrastructure. These include:

  • oil storage, transportation, refining and processing or treatment;
  • natural gas distribution, transportation, storage, compression, processing, liquefaction and regasification;
  • petroleum products and petrochemicals transportation, storage and distribution;
  • electrical power generation, transmission and distribution;
  • highways, roads and railways;
  • urban transportation systems; and
  • ports and marine terminals.

In exchange, sponsors will receive the above-mentioned certificates. Qualifying companies must derive at least 90 per cent of their revenues from the type of energy and infrastructure activities.

It is important to consider that the FIBRA-E structure is not intended to finance new speculative projects, but existing cash flow ones. The purpose of FIBRA-E is to increase the profitability of such projects.

On February 2018, the state-owned company, Federal Electric Commission, issued a project related to Fibra-E for 16.3 billion pesos that will allow investment in assets and projects related to the generation, transmission and distribution of electric energy.

The Mexican energy reform and the need for transport infrastructure

Current transport infrastructure situation

As of today, oil products are transported to service stations by means of tank vehicles mostly owned by PEMEX, oil and gas pipelines, and marine routes in which products are transported by means of oil vessels.

In connection with maritime transportation, it is relevant to consider that, as of today, it represents the only viable means of delivering oil products in regions such as the north-east and the Yucatan peninsula, where market conditions have not made the construction of pipelines economically viable.

The current national port infrastructure is composed of 117 ports and terminals: 59 in the Mexican Gulf and the Caribbean.

Regarding railway transport infrastructure, only 4.7 per cent of the total infrastructure is used to transport oil products, with approximately 1,130km covering two main routes from the oil refinery located in Madero, Tamaulipas to San Luis Potosi state; and the oil refinery Cadereyta, Nuevo Leon to Durango state.

In connection with the national oil pipeline system, the system is approximately 8,946km, with an operative capacity of 3,980 million barrels, which allows oil products to be transported through five regions.

The energy reform and the coming investment opportunities

Before the amendments to Mexico's Federal Constitution in 2013, the Mexican energy industry was completely banned from private investment. All activities related to oil and gas were reserved for the state, and were carried out and performed only by the state oil and gas company, Petroleos Mexicanos, SA (PEMEX) and its subsidiaries. In this regard, all transport infrastructure related to the oil and gas industry was formally constructed, owned and operated by PEMEX and its subsidiaries.

On 20 December 2013, Articles 25, 27 and 28 of Mexico's Federal Constitution were amended allowing participation of private companies in hydrocarbons projects, among them, activities related to the development of transport infrastructure.

The Mexican government's goal is to attract private companies to invest in the Mexican energy industry, reduce the fuel and electricity costs, as well as to maintain or, in any case, increase Mexico's oil production through exploration and extraction contracts to 500,000 barrels in 2018 and 1 million barrels in 2025.

In order to achieve the oil production goal, the government has released a five-year term exploration and extraction bidding plan (2015–2019), which has been periodically updated in order to incorporate observations and suggestions made by private companies.15

The updated programme contemplates an exploration and extraction surface of 262,000km,² and establishes four bidding rounds for exploration and extraction fields and areas to be executed from 2015 to 2019 (from which two bidding rounds have already been carried out and concluded and one more is ongoing with two current tenders that comprise 46 blocks in onshore areas within Mexico).

The Five-Year-Term Programme considers bidding for 536 oil and gas fields. Of these areas, 112 areas are for deepwater, 112 areas for shallow water, 185 for onshore non-conventional areas and 127 for onshore conventional areas.

All of these fields have been and will be divided and bid for in the four different rounds expected in the Programme.

The Programme announced by the government details all of the above-mentioned fields and areas, not just the rounds in which they are expected to be bid for, but also their locations and the resources of each field and area.

As of 31 August 2018, the government has called for nine different tenders, four of them included in round one; four more included in round two and one more included in round three. Additionally, the government has called and concluded six farm-outs with the state-owned production company, PEMEX. Out of these tenders, 110 contracts have already been awarded to private companies.16

The information above is highly relevant as, in the coming years and because of the new exploration and extraction projects that will be executed by private companies as a result of the awarded contracts, expansion of the current hydrocarbons transport infrastructure system will be required in order to efficiently transport extracted hydrocarbons and natural gas from the different oil and gas blocks to the points where such products will be commercialised, as well as to attend to the needs of the industry and deliver products such as gasoline and natural gas throughout the country.

According to official information from the Ministry of Energy,17 in past decades, demand for oil products has increased significantly. Nevertheless, Mexico has experimented with underdevelopment of the industrial transformation and transportation infrastructure in order to respond to domestic demand, which has resulted in a significant increase of importation of such products.

During 2016, the oil products demand in Mexico was for approximately 1.391 million million barrels of oil. Out of this total, 716,700 barrels were imported.

The expected demand for oil products from 2015 to 2029 is high and, according to the Ministry of Energy, is expected to have an annual average growth as follows: gasoline, 2.7 per cent; diesel, 3.6 per cent; and jet fuel, 4.3 per cent.18 Further details are as follows:

  • The total demand increase for gasoline 2015–2029: 1.147 billion barrels by 2029.
  • The total demand increase for gasoline 2015–2029: 673,000 barrels by 2029.
  • The total demand increase for jet fuel 2015–2029: 124,000 barrels by 2029.

It is also relevant to consider that the immediate need for transport infrastructure is also required by companies in the energy industry that are already incorporating new business schemes derived from the recent announcement made by the Mexican government in which, as of April 2016, permits to import gasoline and diesel have been granted.

According to information released by the Ministry of Energy, as of August 2018, 390 permits to import gasoline have been granted to different companies, while 512 have been granted for diesel and 82 for jet fuel.19

Companies in the energy industry that are already settling in Mexico intend to enter into the commercial activities related to the service stations. As of August 2017, the number of permits to operate service stations in Mexico, granted by the Energy Regulatory Commission was of 12,046.

Transport infrastructure, mainly oil and gas pipelines, will be highly necessary in order to attend to the needs of the new projected service stations that will start opening and operating throughout the country.

Special attention has been given to the development of the gas pipeline infrastructure in the past years. Nevertheless, as mentioned, transport infrastructure for oil products will be required by the energy industry and, therefore, investing in these types of projects will be required in the short term.

For example, in August 2016, a major gas company known as TransCanada,20 jointly with another company known as Sierra Oil & Gas and TMM Group, announced its proposal to develop and construct transport infrastructure in order to respond to the increasing demand for oil products in the central Mexican region. The estimated investment of the project will be US$800 million, and its purpose is to transport oil products from the Mexican Gulf region into central Mexico.

The above-mentioned project includes the construction of a marine terminal in the state of Veracruz; an oil pipeline of approximately 265km; and a storage terminal in central Mexico.

National Natural Gas Storage and Transport System plan21

The National Natural Gas Storage and Transport System plan (the Plan) establishes which area is considered strategic to secure the efficient development of the system in terms of capacity or access to new routes.

This Plan takes as a basis all projects contained in the 2014–2018 National Infrastructure Plan. The Plan includes more than 5,150km of gas pipelines.

The Plan represents a major opportunity for investment in Mexico, as it considers 12 different projects, as follows:

ProjectLength (km)Estimated investment (MMD)Estimated bidding year
La Laguna-Aguascalientes6004732016
Tula-Villa de Reyes4205542015
Villa de Reyes-Aguascalientes-Guadalajara3052942015
Jaltipan-Salina CruzMissing figures?Missing figures?Missing figures?
South of Texas-Tuxpan8002,1112016

Derived from the third revision made to the Plan, three additional projects are contemplated:22

ProjectStatesLengthEstimated investments (million US$)Estimated bidding timeOperation date
Nueva EraNuevo León273N/AN/A2017
Strategic Natural Gas Storage PlanTo be definedN/AN/A2018N/A

Additional interconnection projects have been announced by the federal government as to increase the transport demand in Mexico.

Pursuant to information from the federal government, 13 gas pipelines are currently under construction with estimated investments of 7.339 billion pesos, representing an increase of 4.986 billion pesos for the natural gas pipeline system.

Pursuant to the latest information provided by the Ministry of Energy, during 2017,23 six natural gas pipelines were completed with estimated investments of US$2.414 billion and a total length of 1,534km. Additionally, as of August 2018, three additional natural gas pipelines have been concluded with estimated amounts of US$2.674 billion and a length of 1,247km.

Furthermore, there are currently seven natural gas pipelines under construction with estimated investments of US$7.37 billion and a length of 3,152km and five additional projects estimated to be carried out after 2019 with investments of US$1.98 billion and length of 855km.

As of 2018, there have already been many gas pipeline projects bid for and awarded that are expected to be in operation by 2019–2020 at the latest, and in which many different private companies have participated.


It is clear that Mexico has paid special attention to transport infrastructure by means of executing and promoting projects in all areas related to highways; railways; ports and airports; and hydrocarbons transport infrastructure.

Important and major infrastructure works, such as the newly projected Mexico International Airport, intend to attract new investments for Mexico as well as benefit the Mexican economy and the industries located within the territory.

Transport infrastructure projects are key to attracting investments into Mexico, as well as strengthening all major industries, including the energy industry, which, as mentioned, has just opened completely to private investments.

In connection with the energy industry, activities related to the hydrocarbon sector, from upstream to midstream and downstream, have been completely opened for investment and private participation. In this regard, relevant infrastructure projects regarding transportation of products, mostly oil products and natural gas, are expected to have an important role in Mexico.

The government has maintained tight communications with energy industry participants in order to regulate the market according to best international practices, aiming to encourage new companies to invest in Mexico.

Businesses have also sped up their licence and permit requirements in order to participate in the market and offer their services to all foreign companies that are already settling in Mexico.

Mexico has major investment opportunities for private companies in all transport infrastructure areas. Different financial schemes may be implemented to fund and develop the infrastructure needed. However, most of all, as the government knows that infrastructure is the key to economic growth and development, in past years, government support for its construction has been essential for major companies.

Although the current Mexican government will finish its mandate this December 2018 and a new government will begin a six-year term, the recently elected Mexican President has begun announcing his intention to carry out some strategic infrastructure projects such as the construction of the Mayan train, infrastructure works in the region known as Istmo de Tehuantepec and telecommunications infrastructure for the whole of Mexico. Information will have to be analysed as soon as the new government assumes power to determine which of all the above projects will be supported by the new government and completed.


1 Juan Carlos Serra is a partner and Jorge Eduardo Escobedo Montaño is a senior associate at Basham, Ringe y Correa, SC.

2 Fourth Mexican Government Report, available at

5 World Economic Forum, 'The Global Competitiveness Report 2017–2018,' available at

7 Mexican Energy Ministry, 'Mexican oil industry diagnosis.' May 2016, available at

8 See footnote 2.

9 Mexican Transport and Communications Ministry, available at

10 New Mexican International Airport, available at

11 Fifth Mexican Government Report. Available at

12 Mexican Chamber of Deputies. The Public Private Partnership Law, available at

15 Five-Year-Term Programme (2015-2019) for Exploration and Extraction Tenders and its modification, dated May 2016.

16 National Hydrocarbons Commission, available at

17 Mexican Energy Ministry, 'Diagnosis of the Oil Industry in México.' May 2016, available at

18 Idem.

21 Energy Ministry, 'Five-Year Term (2015–2019) for Expansion of Natural Gas Transportation and Storage System Bidding Plan.' Available at

22 National Natural Gas Storage and Transport Plan. Third Revision 2018, available at

Unlock unlimited access to all Latin Lawyer content