kicks off a new wave of changes in public and semi-public companies. And it does so in what, so far, is the largest project carried out by Spanish companies abroad: the AVE to Mecca. The board of directors of the Spanish high-speed consortium Meca-Medina (Ceavmm) agreed yesterday to appoint Alejandro Colldefors as the new president of the entity, replacing Jorge Segrelles. A replacement promoted by the public Renfe, which has a dominant position on the board, having 26.9% of the consortium’s capital and which will have a greater role in the project from now on.
The succession has been baking for weeks. The consortium companies agreed years ago that Segrelles’ mandate would come to an end when the project entered its operational phase. And this occurred on March 31. From that date, the relief was considered imminent, but it did not materialize until yesterday. Business sources believe Behind this delay are the misgivings of some private partners from the consortium to the appointment of Colldefors, whose candidacy was leaked weeks ago.
According to these same sources, these partners have placed conditions on the appointment. Guidelines that, above all, aim to keep the new president out of any political interference and focus on the business aspect. What’s more, several companies have tried to appoint a vice president in the consortium that would serve as a counterweight to Colldefors, something that has not materialized.
Because the new president of the AVE to Mecca has a strong political accent. Law degree from the International University of Catalonia (UIC)Colldefors has been linked to the PSC for years. He was part of the socialist list for the European elections of 2014 and 2019 and has held the position of commissioner of International Affairs of the First Secretary of the PSC.
Of course, the new president of the AVE to Mecca also has extensive experience in the private sector, where he has specialized in supervising international projects. None of them will, however, have the size of the high-speed line, which is a pharaonic service in which 12 Spanish companies currently participate (Abengoa Inabensa, Adif, Cobra, Consultrans, Copasa, Imathia, Indra, Ineco, OHL, Renfe, Siemens Rail Automation and Talgo) and two Saudis (Al Rosan and Al Shoula).
Precisely the size of the consortium has been the focus of conflict in the past, with several companies at odds with each other. A situation that you will now have to deal with Colldefors, although it is not ruled out that some of these companies will leave the group in the coming months.
Operation of the line
The change occurs at a decisive moment for the project, initially valued at 6,700 million euros. The group has just closed the pre-operational phase of the service, a stage that began in 2018 and in which, although trains were running, some works had yet to be completed.
This stage concluded on March 31, when it was announced that the installation work for the traffic management system had been completed. ERTMS Level 2, which in practice allows the consortium to offer commercial services with all the benefits both in speed (300 kilometers per hour of maximum commercial speed) and in number of frequencies.
The operational phase will last 12 years and will be marked for the complete operation of the AVE of the pilgrims, a project with which Renfe intends to enhance its foreign presence. «The new presidency will have as its main objective the adaptation of Ceavmm to this new stage, which will require a greater role for the operating companies of the Consortium and, in particular, of Renfe and Adif», The consortium explained yesterday in a statement.
The output of Segrelles, in the position since 2016 and whose candidacy promoted Adif during the government of Rajoy, was therefore discounted. Because the manager was appointed to lead the construction phase of the service, although he also finally remained in the position when the pre-operational phase began three years ago.
Despite the complexity of the project, the consortium has managed to maintain good relations with the Saudi client under its command, as evidenced by the three “settlement agreements” (main agreements) reached during these years. In addition, it has managed to solve important technical obstacles linked to the terrain, such as the sandbanks that formed around the line, which complicated the construction of the line and made it difficult for the drivers to see when the pre-operational phase of the project began to roll.
But there have not only been obstacles from an industrial point of view. The AVE to Mecca has been under political scrutiny since it became known that the Supreme Prosecutor’s Office had undertaken an investigation to determine if King Juan Carlos I received commissions in awarding the project, produced ten years ago. A process that was used by United We Can to question, from within the Government, the legitimacy of the line.
Yesterday, Segrelles said goodbye to the project wishing the new president “the greatest successes at the head of the project, which will be those of the Consortium” and showing his gratitude to the shareholder companies and the members of the board of directors for the support of his team and management during his presidency. “I am looking forward to this new phase of a project that is at the technological forefront of the railway sector,” said the new president. of the public-private conglomerate.
The succession takes place just a few days after the assault on Indra’s dome carried out by the SState Society of Industrial Participations (SEPI), a process that was finally only partially completed by the opposition of the rest of the company’s shareholders.
In this case, the Government, through RenfeYes, it has been able to elevate its candidate, despite the misgivings of its partners. Sources close to the consortium assure that they are two different profiles, since while Murtra barely had business experience, Colldefors accredits a career in the broader private sector and, in addition, specialized in international projects.
Whatever, the appointment produced in the AVE to Mecca serves to broaden the quota of power of the PSC, a party that in recent years has taken control of public or semi-public companies that are strategic for the Spanish economy in general and the Catalan economy in particular. Everything also points to the fact that the weight of training in other types of public companies will continue to grow in the future.
As ABC announced, the President of the goverment, Pedro Sanchez, plans to start an appointment march in the coming months, both within the Executive as in certain public companies. A process that will reward Catalan socialists related to figures such as the minister ofe Territorial Policy and Public Function, Miquel Iceta, Y to the former Minister of Health and current leader of the Catalan opposition, Salvador Illa. The AVE to Mecca may be the first stop on this new path.