Machu Picchu closes again, due to a dispute over local trains

LIMA: The Inca citadel of Machu Picchu, the crown jewel of Peru’s tourist sites, closed its doors on Monday for an indefinite period for safety reasons amid protests from locals on rail services, officials said.
“Due to the disruptions announced in the Machu Picchu district and in order to safeguard the integrity of its visitors, the citadel of Machu Picchu will not be open from December 14 until this situation is restored”, reads a statement released. from the Directorate of Culture of Cusco, the nearest city.
The surprise measure came just six weeks after the tourist hotspot reopened following a nearly eight-month closure due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The suspension is expected to last until the end of the protests of the residents of the cities of Machu Picchu and Ollantaytambo against the railway companies offering the local train service.
Local communities are demanding cheaper fares and more frequent trains on the route between Cusco and Machu Picchu. The train is the only means of transport for tourists visiting the citadel, but it is also widely used by the inhabitants of the area, where only two companies operate: Inca Rail and Peru Rail.
The protests began peacefully last Wednesday but escalated over the weekend with the occupation of the tracks, which sparked clashes with police and threats to occupy the citadel.
Despite the protests, the Machu Picchu site remained open over the weekend. Machu Picchu had increased its capacity by 40% on 1 December to 1,116 daily visitors, a month after its reopening, as Covid-19 infections had slowed in Peru.
Before the pandemic, between 2,000 and 3,000 people entered the citadel every day and in the high season up to 5,000.
In March, on the last day of visits, 2,500 people entered. Since Machu Picchu reopened, admission was to remain free until December 31st.
Visitors must comply with health and safety protocols for the coronavirus, such as wearing a mask.
Machu Picchu (which means “Old Mountain” in Quechua) is considered the jewel of Peruvian tourism. In 1983 it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and in 2007 it was chosen as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World in a worldwide online survey.
The citadel, built in the 15th century, was “discovered” by the American explorer Hiram Bingham in July 1911, although some locals were aware of it.

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