Teamwork for an exceptional project in Peru
23 July 2018 - Projects update and handover - Peru
Taking over the concession to operate the ring road in Lima, the Peruvian capital, raised two major challenges for teams at VINCI Highways, a VINCI Concessions subsidiary: taking immediate responsibility for running day-to-day operations on a very busy urban highway, including integrating the 600-strong workforce, and completing a 9 km section where work had ceased with only half the job completed. A challenge on this scale called on numerous skills from across the Group.
With a population of 10 million, Lima is the fifth-largest city in South America. Lying on the edge of the Pacific Ocean and dominated by the Andes, Peru’s capital mirrors the country’s strong economic growth of 6% annual average over the past decade. However, its transport infrastructure lacks capacity. To ease traffic congestion, the government decided to invest in new road infrastructure to keep pace with urban development. The decision was taken to modernise the city’s 50-year-old ring road. To the east, this 16 km Y-shaped expressway connects with the road that comes down from the mountains, and to the north and south with the Pan-American Highway that links almost all the Pacific coastal countries of the Americas.
VINCI Highways was convinced that the road, which was first put into the hands of a concession company in 2009, had an exciting future. In 2016 VINCI Highways put in a bid to acquire concession-holder Lamsac, whose contract ran until 2049, as well as Pex, operator of the electronic toll charging system. “This acquisition is a perfect fit with VINCI Concessions’ strategy for growth, which seeks to identify major projects to boost our presence across Latin America,” says Nicolas Notebaert, CEO of VINCI Concessions.
After lengthy negotiations with Invepar, the Brazilian investment fund that owned Lamsac, VINCI Highways finalised its acquisition at the end of 2016. The deal was welcomed by municipal authorities, who recognised in VINCI an investor for the long term. It was a large deal, worth a total €1.8 billion. “This is the Group’s first ever international investment in a brownfield highway, by which I mean acquiring an existing asset.” says Fadi Selwan, chairman and CEO of VINCI Highways. When it acquired the concession, a 16 km section of the toll highway was open to traffic and a further 9 km, linking the highway to the city’s airport and shipping port, was included in the contract but still under construction.
ARRIVING ON SITE, teams from VINCI Highways faced two significant technical challenges. First was to ensure seamless takeover of a section used by over 139,000 vehicles daily. The aim was to rapidly bring operations up to international standards, for example cutting journey times and waiting times at toll barriers. Second was to resume work on the new section, picking up where the now-bankrupt Brazilian contractor OAS had stopped, and delivering the final section to the highest standards.
Laurent Cavrois, appointed CEO of Lamsac in July 2016 after seven years at the head of LISEA, was able to turn to the full range of the Group’s expertise to meet this double challenge. “For the operational side, we brought in experts from our motorways in Greece, Russia and Slovakia to support the local teams,” he recalls. There was a need to adapt processes to international operating standards and restructure management patterns to broaden responsibilities at all levels. He remembers with pride that “in just six months, we had transformed working methods for the 600-strong operational workforce.” Regarding the stalled worksite, a few months before final contract signature, VINCI Highways called in a team of multi-disciplinary experts from VINCI Concessions (for project management expertise), VINCI Construction Grands Projets, Sixense (VINCI Construction’s digital hub) and VINCI Energies. During pre-contract due diligence, their task was to evaluate the quality of the work so far completed and the volume that remained to be done along the 9 km stretch under construction, a section that included a 1.8 km tunnel and 10 viaducts.
THE CONCLUSION WAS CLEAR. “Although it was claimed that construction was two-thirds complete, our experts put the figure closer to 50%,” remembers Nicolas Charles, technical director at VINCI Highways. “Worse still, detailed analysis revealed numerous problems of non-compliance, two of them serious: the tunnel, where major engineering work was complete, leaked extensively, and the previous contractor had done little, if anything, to address the overall geotechnical environment.” The concession company then took a radical decision, determined as it was to achieve the highest standards despite the complexity of the technical constraints. “We decided to bring engineering services in-house, something that concession companies generally avoid because of the perceived risk,” says Nicolas Charles.
A TECHNICAL UNIT was set up, with 80 people providing project management support and engineering expertise. Their mission was to re-examine every aspect of the design of the new section of road and ensure it was completed to the highest standards. The concession company turned to two reliable partners to deliver the work: Grania y Montero, Peru’s leading construction company, and VINCI Construction Grands Projets. The partners worked together as an integrated joint venture. A technical committee was also established to monitor progress. Comprising leading experts from the Group, it was led by VINCI Highways. “They would meet monthly and walk the 9 km worksite together so that they could instantly deal with every problem as it arose.” With the unfailing assistance of this crack team, focus shifted to getting work completed on time. “At peak moments, up to 5,000 people were on site at a time and work continued 24/7,” says Yvonnick Levaché, project director for VINCI Construction Grands Projets.
ONE OF THE GREATEST TECHNICAL CHALLENGES was to be found on the banks of the Rimac, the river that flows down from the mountains to the ocean, gouging a canyon through the centre of the city. “A major portion of the site where we had to build the road was sandwiched between the highly unstable banks of the Rimac on one side and informal housing settlements on the other,” says Yvonnick Levaché. In the narrower sections, existing embankments, referred to as “trash” by the project teams because they were created from layers of waste built up over many decades, were incompatible with construction of a highway. The decision was taken that in these areas the roadway would be mounted on piles. Trusses supported by 500 piles of a depth of 25 to 30 metres were constructed over a distance greater than 1 km. “To get what are basically buried viaducts built on time required Peru’s entire pile-driving capacity as well as assistance from Soletanche Bachy’s teams from neighbouring countries,” recalls Yvonnick Levaché. There were the inevitable surprises. “During the work, we ran up against up to 170 interferences from sub-surface networks, some of which were legal, but others that were illegal so they didn’t appear on any map.”
NOW THAT THE NEW SECTION is opened since June the 15th of 2018, Lamsac is poised to write a new chapter in the story. The concession operator has a clear objective: it needs to improve traffic flow to drive down journey times and delays at toll barriers. This represents another significant challenge as it will require some changes to local habits. “Half the traffic jams are caused by hundreds of minibuses that stop wherever they want to set down and pick up passengers,” explains a far from discouraged Laurent Cavrois, who is filled with ambitious new ideas. “We’re going to increase electronic toll collection, currently around 15% of transactions, with the aim of achieving 40% by 2020.” He can count on the backing of the teams at Lamsac and at Pex, who distribute and develop electronic tolling for Lamsac and at nearby car parks, and who are highly motivated by the new concession arrangement. Since VINCI Highways took over the contract, the number of Pex customers who have signed up for electronic tolling has jumped more than 100% thanks to the technical and marketing expertise of VINCI Highways’ electronic toll collection team. This new drive forms part of a three-year strategic project to deliver Lamsac 2.0. “The aim is to operate a highway that has grown from 16 to 25 km, but with the same number of staff,” stresses Laurent Cavrois. Yet another challenge for the teams at VINCI Highways to meet.