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In memoriam: Emilio Sacristan Roy, architect of Mexico's railway privatization

Emilio Sacristan Roy, an intermodalist, educator and consensus builder who helped shape the privatization of Mexico's railway network, died Aug. 20. He was 77.

Emilio Sacristan Roy

orn in Mexico City in 1939, Sacristan studied economics at Harvard University, graduating in 1961. After a year in graduate school at New York City's Columbia University, he returned home to work for the Mexican government. For the next three-and-one-half decades, Sacristan worked at federal agencies, serving in numerous departments and capacities — from economic adviser/portfolio investment analyst to vice president of government-run steel mills to VP-airports.

In 1993, Sacristan entered the rail realm, managing the privatization of Ferrocarriles Nacionales de Mexico's (FNM) locomotive shops. In 1995, FNM President Luis de Pablo asked Sacristan to privatize Mexico's 16,415-mile railway system. Sacristan spent the next five years piecing the privatization together.

In 1996, Grupo TMM and Kansas City Southern won the concession to operate the Northeast Railway. A year later, Grupo Mexico, Ingenieros Civiles Asociados and Union Pacific Railroad won the concession to operate the Pacific-North Railway (aka Ferromex). And in 1998, Grupo Tribasa SA won the concession to operate the Southeast Railway. The three concession winners each had a 25 percent share in a Mexico City terminal railroad; the government held the remaining 25 percent, a share reserved for a passenger rail entity. A handful of short lines, too, emerged under the privatization plan.

In 1999, Sacristan joined Alstom Transporte SA de CV, where he served as VP and managing director until March 2004. And when executives with Mexico's privatized roads in 2004 wanted to set up an association of their own — Asociacion Mexicana de Ferrocarriles AC (AMF) — they selected Sacristan as director general, a post he held from 2005 until early 2013.

"His talent helped to keep together the AMF during times of mistrust. He was able to strengthen the association by bringing rail transit agencies and rail industry suppliers," said current AMF Director General Iker de Luisa in an email. "Emilio was a railroad leader able to get long-term agreements with different stakeholders, including government, private capital and unions."

A lifelong scholar and educator, Sacristan also was a professor of economic theory at Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico for 50 years. He also lectured at many other institutions in Mexico and the United States — including the University of Denver’s Intermodal Transportation Institute, where he served as a board member.

"I had the distinct honor of getting to know Emilio Sacristan while he was AMF director general," said Association of American Railroads President and Chief Executive Officer Ed Hamberger. "Emilio was a true leader for the rail industry, but even more, an outstanding person who treated everyone with dignity and respect. The AAR and its member railroads send out our heartfelt condolences to his family."

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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