_
_
_
_
_
INTERVIEW

"Just mentioning the Mecca project is a presentation asset"

Project manager recalls the events that won her team a prized contract

Álvaro Romero
Susana Gozalo faces two more years of work on the project.
Susana Gozalo faces two more years of work on the project.Bernardo Perez

Railways was the last course Susan Gozalo passed in university, and now a civil engineer, she can't stop dreaming about trains. For the last three years, she has been immersed in the AVE to Mecca project, one that is putting Spanish industry on the map due its ambitious scope and international significance.

The contract, worth 6.7 billion euros, is the largest that Spain has won to date. "It is also a great success without precedent, in that the public and private sector have worked together on a project that goes beyond the country," Gozalo points out. She is the manager of Transportes de Consultrans, one of the 12 companies that comprise the winning consortium.

Coordinating the work of the Spanish companies and making sure their offer fits the needs of the Saudis was a responsibility she shared with Ineco, a public entity. During the signing of the contract in Riyadh this January, most technical queries journalists had were redirected to Gozalo, a testament to her involvement in the project.

No French connection

It is with pride that she relates how the first team to travel to Saudi Arabia to make an offer was hers. Subsequently, they advanced to the finals against France, which, unlike Spain, has a history of doing business in the region.

"The specifications were almost tailor-made for France and their proposal of a TGV-style train with two levels," says Gozalo, as she explains that this was the only train built by Alstom that met the criteria. However, the Saudis were not impressed.

"The train is uncomfortable for passengers, taking into account that many passengers will be of a certain age with a lot of luggage for their pilgrimage to Mecca," she points out.

The winning train, Talgo 350 Pato, offers a smooth transition between platform and entry, a contrast to the snazzier French offer and its escalators. In addition to the 35 trains that will be delivered to the Saudi authorities, a luxury train has also been custom-made for the royal family. "Technically, we were slightly superior to the French, and also cheaper."

Construction is set to begin in January, the beginning of the next phase. The contract will not only impact exports and employment in Spain, but could also open the door to more landmark projects.

"We are exporting engineering, construction and Spanish technology, all of good quality with no need for unnecessary complexities," she says. "In a business that is ripe with opportunity, mentioning any involvement with the AVE to Mecca project piques people's interest - it's a very important presentation asset."

After three years of hard work, Gozalo hopes to enjoy a vacation. However she knows that once she has rested, she will have to immerse herself in the project during 2013, and possibly throughout 2014 as well. And then the time will come for her to hand over the reins to those working on the on the project abroad. Surely the Haramain train, as it is more popularly known, will continue to make regular stops at her office. "I am never going to completely remove myself from this project," she assures us.

Recomendaciones EL PAÍS
Recomendaciones EL PAÍS
_
_