The ancient Roman Aqueducts which are scattered around Portugal are testament to the fact that this small European country has been investing in long-term infrastructure for as long as the records go back. These days, all anyone needs to do is travel by car or train from north to south of the country, or cross the magnificent 25 de Abril Bridge in Lisbon to realize the country’s infrastructures are as ambitious as ever.
The IP Group integrates the essential technical know-how to offer an excellent performance on road and rail infrastructures networks in different areas, such as of design, construction, business consulting, maintenance, operation, redevelopment, extension and modernization, which also includes, in the railway domain, the command and traffic control.
IP currently has a stake in the share capital of three companies: IP Engenharia, IP Património and IP Telecom. In 2018, GIL – Gare Intermodal de Lisboa merged with IP Património into a single Company, which is responsible for the entire business of commercial operation of real estate belonging to the road and rail infrastructure.
Mr. António Laranjo, CEO of the IP Group, recently took some time out to speak with Business Excellence about the Companies strategies and future.
Mr. António Laranjo begins by telling us about each of the IP Group’s Companies. The largest Company of the Group is Infraestruturas de Portugal (IP). Mr. Laranjo tells us: “IP was founded in 2015 from the merger between two state-owned companies, which were responsible for Portugal’s road (Estradas de Portugal, or “EP”) and railway (Rede Ferroviária Nacional, or “REFER”) network. IP Telecom, the telecomunications and IT Company was founded in 2000, and had become an increasingly central part of our infrastructure responsibilities. It has grown to the extent that it now offers its services to external third parties in areas like cloud, data management and technology consulting”.
“IP Engenharia, which is responsible for the international activities, develops institutional capacity-building solutions for infrastructure management companies, mainly in Portuguese-speaking Countries. It has been in operation for more than forty years, and provides railway engineering services to the other IP Group companies.”
Mr Laranjo continues: “IP Património, our Company that is responsible for the integrated management of road and railway assets, offers expertise in the commercial operation of the network of stations and transport interfaces, ensuring their efficient use, increasing valuation and profitability: Those assets are an impressive array of road and rail infrastructure - enough to grace any bigger European state. Consider statistics like 15.000 km of road (plus a further 1,000 km under concession), 2,550 km of railway line of which 1,700 km is electrified, and over 400 passenger stations spread across the country”.
The mandate to manage the transport network infrastructure means that the IP Group is responsible for a significant amount of Portugal’s sustainability efforts.
António Laranjo also takes particular pride in the Company’s green ways – a network of routes recovered from old railway lines which can now be used for recreation such as pedal biking or trekking - implemented by IP Património.
He adds: “Since 2001, we’ve been rejuvenating old railway lines in the North and Central Portugal regions. We had help from municipalities to build them, and it has also allowed Infraestruturas de Portugal to become a member of the European Association of Greenways.”
Elsewhere, IP built a combined total of 140 km of sound barriers on its road and rail networks, 15 water management systems, and planted nearly 1 000 trees. In the same period of time, IP was able to reduce its fuel consumption, despite an increase in the total number of trains in operation.
In 2018 the IP Group also gave a special attention to the reforestation of Portuguese forests. Several activities were developed, involving its employees, who volunteered for various actions. For example, following the serious fires that occurred in 2017, employees planted around 700 native trees (Portuguese ash and oak trees) on a plot of 9,000 m2, located in Pedrogão Grande, near the IC8.
In recent years Portugal has been considered as one of the countries with the best road network in the world. Therefore, on railways, the future passes through the conclusion of the bold “Ferrovia 2020” EU Investment Plan.
The “Ferrovia 2020” project includes a global investment of around 2 billion euros to intervene in over 1 000 km of railway, aiming to achieve three main goals:
To assume international commitments (Spain and the “Atlantic Corridor”)
To promote rail freight transport, supporting export growth
To guarantee links between national ports and main land borders
This huge Investment Plan will allow IP to implement the main rail cross border links with Spain and to Europe, the electrification of more than 400 km of existing railway lines and the initial set-up phase of the European Rail Traffic Management System. With “Ferrovia 2020” IP will increase the capacity for freight trains and promote the interoperability of the rail corridors (track gauge).
Portugal, once the world’s leading maritime nation is now very much on terra firma.