Interview to Silvia Roldán

Silvia Roldán | CEO of Metro de Madrid, President of Alamys (Latin American Association of Metros
and Subways) and Vice-President of the Europe UITP Metros Committee

Mafex Magazine: Since 2019 you have been CEO of Metro de Madrid. What objecti- ves have you set yourself in your mandate?

Silvia Roldán: There are two main goals that are closely intertwined: innovation and inclusion. These ideas are so very in- terdependent because Metro de Ma- drid is fully committed to provide the best possible service to most people.

Innovation is a means for providing the best performance and for enhancing productivity. Innovation is also a bridge enabling most people to use the best mobility mode Madrid can offer. Metropolitan railways are the most efficient mass mobility solution in large cities and mass mobility is for everyone – inclusion is an end in itself.

Mafex Magazine: The current transport paradigm is changing. Climate challenge and social changes also present opportunities for the creation of a new pattern of sustainable mobility aimed at reducing environmental impact and promo-ting the well-being of citizens. What do you consider to be the main challenges in urban mobili-ty? What role does railway play in the future of mobility?

Silvia Roldán: Urban mobility is a prerequisite of urban life. The worst the mobili-ty, the hardest the life for millions of people – this is a vicious circle we need to break. Public transport stakeholders must be citizen-orien-ted – we need to think, to plan, to work bearing in mind the mobility of millions of people.

The better our performance the more people will choose public transport – the more public trans-port use the better for our environ-ment. This is the virtuous circle we need to ensure if we really want to offer a better world for future gene-rations. It is one of the leading con-cerns of our time and we should stri-ve to offer the best possible public transport network – public transport links people and opportunities in an efficient way. Public transport enables people to enjoy the city sur-face and breathe a cleaner air.

What can I say about railways? I am a passionate advocate of railways – my professional career has been devoted to railways. Railways were the spearhead of the Industrial Revolution, they are the essential transport mode of our times – and they will be the spearhead of the future mobility. No other mode of transport is able to carry as many passengers as trains do and, besi-des, railways are a safe, efficient, clean and reasonably priced sys-tem. Railways are able to articulate cities and whole regions, providing great opportunities of social and economic development.

Mafex Magazine: What are the specific challenges presented by Metro de Madrid in the short-medium term? And its strategic objectives?

Silvia Roldán: Our strategic goals can give us a clear view of our challenges, though I’d like to start reminding something we hardly ever say – a network more than one century old is always in need of refurbishment and the older part of our lines is in the centre of the city and plays an instrumental role in North-South and East-West communication. Some solutions of the past are no longer used and must be changed -a typical example is ballast-. But let see a summary of our strategic goals.

First of all, we need to ensure relia-bility because this is our main stren-gth. What makes Metro a favourite of Madrilenians is that we have no traffic jams and there’s no uncer-tainties based on the state of traffic – our lines are an exclusive way pro-viding a safe journey that also allows a good time planning.

Of course, we also need to ensure economic and financial sustainability – this is the cornerstone of any company. Kee-ping the customer trust and enhan-cing the commitment of employees is also very important – both are in-tangible assets showing our ability of meeting customer’s expectations and our quality as employers. And we have to keep on working on current projects that are paving the future, including cybersecurity, use-ful ideas for our new headquarters, the complete refurbishment of line 1 track infrastructure or the future centre of global control.

Mafex Magazine: And in which ones is it going to especially need the collaboration and contribution of our industry?

Silvia Roldán: Whatever helps innovation will always be really useful – a customer- oriented and financially sound inno-vation is the key to success.

Mafex Magazine: Metro de Madrid is recognised for its commitment to accessibi-lity and for promoting inclusive transport. According to the 2021-2028 Plan, 84% of the stations in the network will be fully acces-sible upon completion. How are they carrying this out?

Silvia Roldán: We are working a lot in accessibility because it is one of our core values. On the other hand, we have to cope with a large network -294 km and 302 stations- that has been build in different times, starting from 1917.

Bearing both factors in mind, we are planning carefully the works because we need the cooperation and understanding of everyone and, of course, because budget matters! At this point, we have a lot of expe- rience in this field of works and our hard-working and experienced pro-fessionals are one of the best assets for any company. I am very proud of their long-term commitment with accessibility and inclusion.

Mafex Magazine: The Station Modernisation Plan involves the remodelling of a total of 33 stations in the Metro network, thanks to an investment of 89 million euros that will be carried out by the Comu-nidad de Madrid (Madrid Auto-nomous Community), and also underway is the service retain-ment for the project drafting in Madrid Nuevo Norte. What do they consist of?

Silvia Roldán: As I said before, a network like ours needs to put resources in refurbish-ment but it’s not the only thing to do – as operators, we need to get ready to operate new expansions of the network. Building new extensions is not our responsibility but our long experience as operators is something to be taken into account.

By mid-2027 Line 11 is expected to open a substantial extension linking the new neighbourhood of Valde- bebas with the rest of the city and allowing important interchanges with transport hubs. On the other side, the extension of Line 3 will increase the line connectivity. And I am sure that Nuevo Norte, currently under study, will make an extraordi-nary contribution to innovation.

Mafex Magazine: The Spanish industry develop-ments have brought with them in recent years innovative solu-tions in numerous fields such as energy efficiency, capability, accessibility, and improvement of the user experience. How do you value this commitment of companies in the sector?

Silvia Roldán: I am most optimistic – Spanish com-panies are a byword of efficiency and I am sure that their contribution will be instrumental for the who-le sector.

Operators need this dri-ve towards innovation because we need to meet the demands posed by our customers and we also need good reasons to offer our customers the best possible experience.

Mafex Magazine: The railway, due to its nume-rous environmental, efficiency and safety advantages, is key to sustainable mobility. And in this process it is very necessary to have professionals who help implement new developments, reinforce innovation and move towards the digitalisation of the sector. What message, in your opinion, should the sector con-vey to attract talent?

Silvia Roldán: Railways are a steadfast ally of so-ciety and a most challenging sector with a long future ahead.

That’s why it attracts investments and makes part of public and private planning. Railways are past, present and, abo-ve all, future. Working in this sector is one of the best things for anyone who is really interested in innovation and in shaping a better world.

Mafex Magazine: We know that women are the biggest user in mobility, but they only represent 22% of the workforce in the European rai-lway sector. As the first woman to lead Metro de Madrid, an en-tity with more than 100 years of history, what measures do you consider are required to increa-se the presence and to promote equal opportunities for women in planning, management and decision-making in the sector?

Silvia Roldán: We take equality very seriously – our II Equality Plan is in force, providing analysis and clear measures to pro- mote equality.

We follow all the le-gal requirements, that goes without saying, and we are proud to say that women in Metro de Madrid have means to complain effectively in case they feel discrimination. We are also very glad to see how women work in functions that have traditio-nally been performed by men, like Heads of Train Depot. However, we all need to make a better effort to promote STEM among the youngest which, in my opinion, could make a real difference.