Let’s face it: there’s few things more romantic than trains, and robberies of said trains have formed the backbone of great novels and films for over a century. The modern reality is not quite Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, however.Â It’s impoverished and not quite moral bandits piling rocks onto tracks in a bid to derail a train, then making off with whatever they can sell. No dynamite and bank vaults here.
In Mexico, the rising popularity of such robberies is proving an expensive headache for automakers shipping cars from Mexican assembly plants.
According to Bloomberg (h/t to Jalopnik), the largely agricultural town ofÂ Acultzingo, four hours southeast of Mexico City, is the epicenter of an explosion in train robberies. The past year alone saw 521 crimes committed against freight trains in Acultzingo. It seems that the declining popularity of fuel theft has turned bandits loose on other targets of opportunity, and trains make for a particularly profitable payday.
Once derailed by a rock pile (or cut brake lines), robbers lying in wait raid the train cars for anything of value that can be easily carried away. Booze, footwear, anything â€” including parts wrenched off factory-fresh automobiles. And these losses pale in comparison to the overall damage incurred from the train wreck. One derailment sawÂ GMexico Transportes take a $15 million hit.
So bad are the losses from train bandits that Mazda, which produces the Mazda 2 and 3 at its Salamanca assembly plant, has taken to driving some of its products to their intended destination. Bloomberg cites analyst estimates of a 30 percent increase in the shipping costs of those vehicles. Still, it’s preferable to taking the cars throughÂ Acultzingo by rail, but only to a point.
Semi trucks travelling lonely stretches of highway are also inviting targets.
Mazda isn’t along in taking losses from train bandits. Audi ships 3,300 vehicles per day to the port of Veracruz from its Puebla assembly plant, and a spokesperson claims the thefts have had a “big impact” on its distribution. “Every car we make has a client waiting for it,” the automaker said.
Last month, Mexico’s auto industry association boss, Eduardo Solis, called out the crimes. The train robberies are â€œsimply unacceptable,” he said.
With rail-bound robberies on the rise, it looks like the only solution is a coordinated federal response, which is credited with reducing the prevalence of fuel robberies â€” to the detriment of the rail industry and its customers.