Mexico's Ferromex halts train operations after migrant deaths, injuries

FILE PHOTO: Migrants travel on a train, with the intention of reaching the United States, in Ciudad Juarez

By Laura Gottesdiener

MONTERREY, Mexico/MEXICO CITY (Reuters) -Mexican railroad operator Ferromex has temporarily suspended operations of 60 trains on northbound routes, the company said on Tuesday, after nearly half a dozen deaths or injuries of migrants using the cargo trains to travel.

Ferromex, owned by conglomerate Grupo Mexico, said in a statement the presence of migrants in its railcars and rail yards had grown "significantly" in recent days, growing to more than 4,000 in several cities throughout the country.

"Due to this, Ferromex will temporarily suspend its operations on the affected routes to protect the physical integrity of the migrants and will be monitoring whatever measures authorities implement," the rail operator said.

Despite the risks, migrants frequently hitch rides atop cargo trains to travel hundreds of miles across Mexico towards the U.S. border.

The suspension of some Ferromex trains comes as large groups of migrants are arriving in various Mexican border cities, including Ciudad Juarez, Piedras Negras and Tijuana.

A Venezuelan migrant named Heyder, who asked to be identified only by his first name as he planned to cross illegally, said he decided to hop aboard a cargo train en route to Ciudad Juarez after waiting more than three months in northern Mexico hoping to land an appointment on a U.S. government smartphone app to present himself at a port of entry.

"We are risking everything aboard the train, our lives, everything," he told Reuters by telephone as he rode a train across the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua on Tuesday. "Because in our countries there is no hope."

(Reporting by Laura Gottesdiener in Monterrey, Mexico and Kylie Madry in Mexico City; Editing by Valentine Hilaire, Timothy Gardner and Lincoln Feast.)