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September 2016

Rail News: People

From the editor: Emilio Sacristan Roy, 1939-2016

— by Pat Foran, editor

Pat Foran

I met Emilio Sacristan Roy in 1998, right after Mexico’s railway system had been privatized. I was struck by his intelligence and his candor, and by the respect his presence commanded — he had a way about him. Emilio was interested in the world around him. Every bit of it. Then there was his hearty laugh. We quickly became friends.

I’ve been thinking about Emilio a lot the past couple of weeks. He died on Aug. 20 at the age of 77.

Born in Mexico City, Emilio was a lifelong educator and learner. He earned a degree in economics from Harvard University and a master’s at Columbia University. Emilio shared what he’d learned with others; for 50 years, he was a professor of economic theory at Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico. He also lectured at other institutions, including the University of Denver’s Intermodal Transportation Institute, where he served as a board member.

Emilio Sacristan Roy

Emilio, the lecturer, was also was a good listener. He had to be: For 35 years, he worked at Mexican federal agencies, serving in numerous departments and capacities. In 1993, he entered the rail realm, managing the privatization of Ferrocarriles Nacionales de Mexico’s (FNM) locomotive shops. In 1995, FNM President Luis de Pablo asked him to privatize Mexico’s railway system. And he did it smartly and strategically, observers told me.

Post-privatization, Emilio spent five years with Alstom Transporte SA de CV. When executives with Mexico’s privatized railroads wanted to set up an association of their own — Asociacion Mexicana de Ferrocarriles AC (AMF) — they selected the politically savvy Emilio to serve as director general. He helmed AMF from 2005 until early 2013.

For two decades, I learned from Emilio. I listened to him tell stories as I interviewed him for the articles I was working on. As I write this column, I’m recalling a day I spent with him in June 2005; I was in Mexico City to write a story about him. As ever, Emilio was open, honest and himself. He spun more than a few tales that day. Of course, he laughed a lot. We laughed a lot.

I’m fortunate to have known Emilio, to have learned from him, to have written about him, to have counted him as a friend. To have heard those stories and that laugh. My thoughts are with his family and friends. And with him.


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