Home Interview “The railroad must remain steadfast at the forefront of technological development”

“The railroad must remain steadfast at the forefront of technological development”

por Patricia


 Mafex Magazine: Adif is a world leader in high speed rail. Furthermore, it appears as a leading expert in conventional line management, stations, deployment of signalling and security systems. What have been the keys to occupying this outstanding position? How are you planning to maintain it?

Isabel Pardo de Vera: The keys to the development of Adif and Adif AV as companies at the fore of the administration of railway infrastructures are based fundamentally on the work and continuous effort of all the workforce of both companies and on the determined commitment that the country as a whole makes to modernising the railway and guarantee a more sustainable model of mobility and thus guaranteeing territorial cohesion. The implementation of high-speed lines causes a dynamic effect in the whole railway network, including the conventional network, since the need to improve the performance of all connections that materialise from a new high-speed corridor allows us to multiply the positive effect of the infrastructure. And alongside this, all of the foregoing combined with the difficulty of the coexistence of different gauge widths, an issue that has been a challenge of constant innovation to be able to take full advantage of the whole railway network.

Our intention is to continue with the deployment of the high-speed network that is planned by the Ministry of Development, to consolidate national rail routes connected to the European high-speed network to ensure maximum performance, the highest levels of operational safety, unmatched reliability and the swiftest travelling times between all the regions. We also forecast a substantial improvement in metropolitan transport, since the problem of mobility is of greater complexity in the large metropolitan areas of our country. Under this scenario, commuter networks are basic elements in the guarantee of a universal and sustainable mobility that allows cities to continue growing in dynamism and habitability.

Mafex Magazine: In this new professional stage at the head of Adif, what aims have been flagged as priorities in terms of infrastructure, management, R & D, etc.?

Isabel Pardo de Vera: This new stage is clearly marked by a firm commitment to bolstering the role of Adif and Adif AV’s actual workers. The commitment and dedication of the entire railway network is the best tool with which to face new challenges and achieve aims, which can be summarised in the pursuit of continuous improvement in all aspects:

– Improvements in infrastructure, so that any part of the railway networks (high speed, conventional, metric width) boast optimum conditions for railway operations

– Application of technological improvements in all areas, from project management, such as through the implementation of the BIM methodology throughout the entire life cycle of the infrastructure, to auscultation, monitoring of our assets.

– Improvements in conservation and maintenance, through asset management that allows the allocation of resources, which by definition are and will be scarce, in a rational and perfectly planned manner.

– Improvement in management, taking advantage of the possibilities posed by the technological innovations that make electronic administration possible, the automation of contracting processes, the use of energy in our buildings, etc …

Ultimately, the basic aim is that Adif and Adif AV are companies in a process of permanent improvement, which incorporate the technical and methodological advances that enable a better service to railway operators, to citizens and all this guaranteeing the best use rational and efficient public resources that are invested in our sector.

Mafex Magazine: According to the new organisational structure of Adif, focused on five general directorates, what are the strategic priorities?

Isabel Pardo de Vera: Adif’s new organisational structure seeks above all the maximum sustainability of the Spanish railway system and the viability of Adif as manager of the Railway Network of General Interest in the short, medium and long term, reinforcing the role of the conservation areas, capacity management and construction, meaning that each of these areas has become a General Directorate within the firm itself.

This reshuffle responds to the intention of granting each of these areas of activity greater weight within the company, with the necessary coordination between them. On the other hand, with the aim of providing efficiency, transversality and greater coordination to the productive and operational areas, the General Directorate of Strategic Planning and Projects has been created, with which it is intended to ensure the alignment and imbrication of those entrusted with applying Adif’s Strategic Plan 2020 in all areas of the organisation.

The aim is also to align and provide viability and pragmatism the achievement of its objectives, integrating functional analysis and projects as an essential part of the planning process. The other major innovation is the creation of the General Directorate of Security, Processes and Corporate Systems, which is configured as a corporate area mainly focused on the safety culture in each and every one of the activities of the railway infrastructure manager, as well as in the standardisation and strengthening of all the processes and systems on which the work of the company is deployed and developed.

Furthermore, one of the characteristics that must be stressed in this new management structure is that it is composed mostly of managers with a long professional career within the company; people who know the firm inside out, its operation, areas for improvement and synergies that can be produced, and who are aware of the transversality that is required for the optimal functioning of the company. It is a very railway-based management team, which will provide all its knowledge and experience so that the company continues to improve.

Mafex: The high-speed corridors, as well as the maintenance of the network, are included in Adif’s action plan. How is work progressing? In the project portfolio, will initiatives such as the Mediterranean Corridor or the Regional Rail Nuclei be given a boost? How important is the Atlantic Corridor?

Isabel Pardo de Vera: Currently, all the high-speed corridors whose development was commissioned by the Ministry of Public Works to Adif are under execution. Each of them is in a different phase, obviously, but it should be noted that the investment effort made by the company is ongoing and aimed at making available to the public the new infrastructure in the shortest possible timeframe, always ensuring that the new lines meet the highest safety standards.

Although it is complicated to synthesise the state of progress of all the high-speed actions that Adif is currently undertaking, a qualitative classification can be established as follows, without it being an exhaustive list of all investments in high-speed operations:

– Corridors that are mostly in the phase of platform works or due to start soon, such as the Murcia-Almería, Navarro corridor, the Basque ‘Y’, the stretch of the line between Pedralba Galicia and Taboadela (Ourense) and the Extremadura line, although in the latter they have already begun superstructure works in part of the route that runs through the Extremadura autonomous community.

– Corridors with superstructure works, in which the platform is practically finished or is being worked on an existing one, such as the Pajares bypass, La Encina-Xátiva-Valencia, Valencia-Castellón (2nd phase), and the Monforte- Murcia except for the underground works of Murcia.

– Lines with works in a highly advanced state, but still without having begun the testing phase, such as Venta de Baños-Burgos, and the Zamora-Pedralba de la Pradería section.

– Line in the testing phase prior to service start-up, whose authorisation is the responsibility of the State Railway Safety Agency: Antequera-Granada, Chamartín-Atocha-Torrejón de Velasco and Vandellós-Tarragona.

As for the rest of the issues, the momentum to the European strategic corridors is obviously maintained. The Mediterranean Corridor is a key infrastructure for the economic and social development of the entire peninsular Mediterranean arch and Adif is absolutely committed to advancing in all the sections that will come into being as the corridor from Algeciras to the French border with completion of work in the time horizon of the year 2023. Similarly, the Atlantic Corridor is the other major axis of European transport that connects the peninsula with the heart of the continent. The inclusion of new stretches of railway lines in this corridor will allow us to qualify for funding through European grants to standardise these lines to the standards set by the Interoperability Technical Specifications, and from Adif we will take advantage of all European funding that is accessible to improve our network.

To conclude, it is noteworthy that the plans of the Cercanías nuclei seek to introduce the necessary improvements in the metropolitan networks to guarantee the reliability of the facilities, the renewal of railway material and even the incorporation of duplications, extensions or new sections of line at certain points with a high level of congestion. All of the foregoing, with the aim of guaranteeing sustainable mobility in the most significant urban agglomerations of our country.

Mafex: Another important aspect will be the opening to competition of passenger transport, planned in the EU for 2020, with new private operators. Is the role of Adif key? What is your vision of this process from your position?

Isabel Pardo de Vera: Of course, the role of the Infrastructure Manager is absolutely pivotal in this process, as it is the responsibility of capacity allocation for railway operators in a transparent and non-discriminatory manner. It is also an essential function of the Infrastructure Administrator to manage the traffic of all railway operators, which must also be carried out in a non-discriminatory manner; the information generated during the management process of authorised traffic flows must also be made available to operators in a transparent manner and open to all of them.

Likewise, maintenance and preservation activities must be adapted to the new context of liberalisation, in the sense that the Infrastructure Administrator must carry out a long-term planning of network maintenance and large-scale renovations, which must be planned be consulted with the railway operators that provide services as well as with the candidates that opt for the allocation of capacity in a certain line. Achieving adequate coordination in this regard is one of the challenges of the liberalisation process.

The position of Adif in this process is very limited by the Directives in which the fourth railway package is framed, as are the rest of European railway infrastructure managers. Yet, within this legislative framework that clearly sets out the duties of administrators in the new de-regulation scenario, and that is fundamentally based on guaranteeing the possibility of competition in national passenger transport through the implementation of application and capacity allocation processes, traffic management and carrying out maintenance tasks and renewal of the network, which are transparent and non-discriminatory, each Member State, each rail network, each national market has certain singularities that will condition in some way the way of implementation of liberalisation. On behalf of Adif, the aim is to pose a realistic scenario in relation to the immediate incorporation of new operators, and therefore we will try to promote framework agreements for capacity allocation, a tool provided in the directives that we believe allow us to ensure a certain stability and continuity for the applicants, for their financial planning, and optimisation of the capacity of the infrastructure for Adif itself.

The process of de-regulation of the national passenger transport market implies adapting to a more complex and dynamic relationship environment, in which, in addition, the Directives strengthen independence in the management of Infrastructure Managers as well as the role of the regulator, that in our country is represented by the National Commission of Markets and Competition. All stakeholders must adapt to this new scenario.

Mafex: From the Association we have been championing a greater support and participation of the Spanish public companies within the sector in the sphere of railway R&D+i. What do you think Adif’s role will be in this matter?

Isabel Pardo de Vera: Adif considers investment in R&D+i as being a highly important element to achieve productivity improvements, amelioration in terms of management and operational enhancements that enable a more competitive and efficient rail sector. This need for constant improvement in any process must be perfectly aligned with research, development and innovation, so that investments in this area have a direct return for the company. Sometimes we think of R&D+i as something that has to revolutionise a certain sector, when in fact there are many ways to achieve small improvements in operations and management that, cumulatively, represent a significant leap in productivity, or in customer satisfaction, or in increments of the effectiveness in the use of scant available resources. All these improvements are also the result of R&D+i actions.

In any case, the railways must continue to be at the forefront of technological development, to continue being the representation of an efficient, safe, comfortable and reliable mode of transport, and at the same time to be able to offer better services in those areas where there is a margin of improvement to attract higher traffic volumes.

Mafex Magazine: Adif has also opened a solid path around the world with its wide range of comprehensive services. How do you value this process of knowledge transfer and the international growth of the organisation? Do you have prospects for the coming years?

Isabel Pardo de Vera: As a company responsible for the administration of the railway infrastructures of the Railway Network of General Interest of the State, Adif has a commitment and vocation of service fundamentally geared towards the citizenship of the State. International operations must be evaluated without losing sight of the situation indicated. In this sense, Adif must participate in all European and global forums in which ideas, knowledge and best practices are shared. Likewise, Adif’s knowledge and management are highly valued by other administrations and private operators or managers, and for that reason the value of this knowledge and our working systems is very interesting for the company. However, we believe that the leading role in the international arena and in the business opportunities generated in the railway sector must fall to the private sector. Adif’s position in the international arena is understood more from the point of view of the image of the Spanish railway sector and its global functioning as a system, acting as a link and traction of Spanish companies in a representative manner.

Mafex Magazine: Precisely, in terms of internationalisation, the Spanish railway industry has established itself as a key partner of the administrations to carry out successful projects in the five continents. What importance does it attach to the collaboration between Adif and the business sector to continue to move forwards in the development of transport?

Isabel Pardo de Vera: Undoubtedly, this collaboration is essential to disseminate and raise awareness of the level of excellence of the Spanish railway industry, as indicated above. Our rail network and our rail sector serve as a model and are a benchmark for success in many countries, and we must continue to divulge this and show the capacity of our sector in the rest of the world, as that is the image that manages to generate the appropriate trustworthiness and then receive tenders and contracts in highly important projects.

Mafex Magazine: In this sense, the different stakeholders (official bodies, institutions, administrations, etc.) work very actively in supporting companies abroad. What do you think about the work in the railway field of associations such as Mafex?

Isabel Pardo de Vera: In a world as competitive as today’s, and with an impressive degree of development in many countries, it is necessary for many companies, if not essential, to find the formula to find partners that allow them to tackle projects that increasingly grow in complexity, cost and demands. It is therefore very valuable that companies in the sector are able to associate in an integrated manner in groups such as Mafex, as this makes it easier to reach many more projects and markets, in short to open new business opportunities. At the same time, this type of association collaborates by offering a vision of efficiency and modernity of our country abroad.


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