The Spanis Government is still committed to support the spanish industry internationally and also continue investing in the improvement of the existing spanish infraestructure. The Minister of Public Works explains in detail the future investments for the coming years.
The Spanish Minister of Public Works and Transport, Ana Pastor, provides an overview of the Spanish railway situation at 3 years after her election.
Ana Pastor. In recent years, investment in rail transport in Spain has been affected by significant cuts. However, according to the State Budget for 2015, it is expected an increase of almost 14% over the previous year. Could you give us an overview of the current and future Spanish railway situation?
In Spain we have a rail network of 15,000 kilometres, of which nearly 3,000 km are high speed. The railway sector generates nearly 50,000 direct jobs and 400,000 indirect jobs in our country. Therefore, we are facing a sector of great importance both economically and socially as it contributes to the mobility and territorial cohesion. From the beginning of the term, the total budget dedicated to rail amounted to 27,200 million euros. Next year, the amount will be 9.260 million. The three most important milestones or achievements have been the AVE Barcelona-Figueras, the AVE to Alicante and the initiation of international high-speed services to France. But there is still work to do because, as you know, next year the arrival of high speed to different Spanish cities is planned. Along the work we have developed in infrastructure, we have also launched a new trade policy in Renfe so that a greater number of citizens have access to the services of this mode of transport. Since the launch of the new trade policy, both the number of passengers, income and occupation have increased.
It seems that the high speed will remain supported by major investments, with 70% being the largest budget item on rail. Could you please give us more details?
The investment for 2015 destined to railways is amounted at 5,200 million euros, representing, in fact, almost a 14% increase. 3.561 million euros will be invested in High Speed. We will also dedicate a major effort to improve the situation of conventional lines and commuter services. On the railway line Palencia-Santander, for example, 95 million euros are being invested to improve the electrification and security systems, allowing savings of half an hour on this journey.
Changing the conversation to international markets, Spanish companies have their eyes abroad in many markets occupying leadership positions. What qualities do you consider the sector to have to become a leader in new transport plans around the world?
We realize that one of the focuses of this government is to support the internationalization of our companies, which means focusing on the export potential of our country. With the experience of large infrastructure built on our territory, Spain has large corporations that are world leaders in infrastructure development. This position, due to an already extensive experience, and this know-how in the field of transport infrastructure, has opened business opportunities and expectations for our engineering companies, for our professionals and for the Spanish economy in general.
This is also leading to the creation of mixed public-private partnerships, some of which already present excellent results in the Middle East, Europe and America. Probably the most emblematic case for its social and economic importance is the AVE to Mecca, the largest contract won by Spanish companies outside our borders (€6,736 M). From a broader perspective, note that the Spanish companies have a portfolio of international projects that exceeds 74,000 million euros and international tenders for infrastructure which were awarded from January to October 2014, with the participation of Spanish companies, amount more than 41,000 million euros.
In this external drive, being supported in areas such as promotion is a cornerstone for businesses, especially for SMEs. How is the role of associations as Mafex seen?
As indicated before, the experience of Spanish companies is the best cover letter to introduce ourselves to other countries. The excellent infrastructure that has been conducted over the past decades in our country is a reference outside our borders and, therefore, everything done to promote the sector of civil engineering and publicize their good work is welcomed, just like you (Mafex) do.
In this area, what is the strategy proposed by the Ministry of Public Works and Transport to support the internationalization of the railway sector and specifically for Spanish companies?
Supporting the internationalization of our companies is one of the priorities of the government of Spain and our department supports and promotes the internationalization in the field of infrastructure, transport and housing. In the last three years we have signed important agreements on cooperation in infrastructure and international transport in general.
Among the most prominent international cooperation agreements are infrastructure and transportation with Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador or Mexico; and cooperation agreements in the field of railways and roads with India. In addition to these agreements other cooperation contracts have been signed for maritime transport with Angola; or the memorandum of understanding with Algeria by which Spanish companies will build at least 50,000 homes in Algerian land.
I would also like to refer to some of the most important projects in which Spanish companies work today. Among them are the high speed train between Mecca and Medina, to which I referred before; the construction of Riyadh Metro; the High Speed line Ankara-Istanbul; design, construction, operation and maintenance of Line 2 Metro Lima; Metro Line 1 of Panama; the expansion of the Panama Canal; granting “Connecting Pacific I” in Colombia; the second phase of construction of Line 4; and East West Link project in Australia.
Liberalization of the sector
Finally, could you briefly explain the current situation regarding the liberalization of the sector? At what point are we and what is planned for 2015?
In November we took the first steps towards the liberalization of the corridor in Levante. We have just made available for public information the ministerial order that will determine the requirements and conditions required to participate in the tender of such certificates, award criteria and the various stages of the procedure, as well as the rights and obligations applicable to the contractor.
All this will soon make possible the tender for the Sector Levante’s authorization certificate, so that the new operator can start business effectively throughout 2015.
The objective is to take full advantage of the extraordinary railway infrastructure we have now, increase the number of rail operators, expand access of citizens to High Speed through a substantial reduction in prices, increase the volume of goods transported by rail and adapt the supply of rail services to current demand. If everything progresses as expected, next year we should start to run the first passenger trains owned by a private operator on this line.