Jorge Torruco
Construction Director
Grupo Omega
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View from the Top

MTS Projects Face Social Challenges

Wed, 11/01/2017 - 14:34

Q: What are the main problems construction companies encounter with public infrastructure projects?

A: The fundamental problem is that infrastructure projects are always subject to the terms of political administrations, not to a strategic and integral plan. This leads these projects to be tendered without the necessary planning or studies. On a local level, as a construction company we are always on the lookout for new and interesting projects to participate in and rights of way is one of the elements that we worry about the most. The preconstruction stage is extremely important because it will provide information regarding the types of permits and land that must be acquired for the project.

I believe that we have the necessary legal framework but it is not applied appropriately. There are many laws that favor quick land acquisition but these are almost impossible to apply because there are always social pressures that do not allow the state to take possession of the land without having the rights of way completely liberated. No tendering process should begin unless the rights of way are guaranteed. In Mexico, it is not a problem of technical complexity because we have the skilled human capital to carry out the project. Instead it is a question of legislation, legal framework, rights of way and social-impact issues that keep the country from bridging its infrastructure gap.

Q: How do MTS differ from other transport infrastructure projects in Mexico?

A: Projects that are located inside the Mexico City metropolitan area are far more complicated due to the high level of interaction a project will have with existing infrastructure in the area. This is complicated by the fact there is continuous congestion in terms of vehicles and people, which also generates social problems that can impact the performance of the project. For these projects, it is important to efficiently coordinate the construction and management teams along with the local authorities to prevent or mitigate any problems that could arise. MTS can also bolster the transportation link between cities. Although the national road and highway systems have been improved, they are not ideal for the transportation of large quantities of products and goods.

Q: What measures does Omega implement before becoming involved in an infrastructure project, such as the Mexico-Toluca Interurban Train?

A: Before starting a project, we do our own investigation but we cannot be as thorough as we would like because it is an expensive task. We cannot invest such large sums without some guarantee we will win the project. For the third section of the Mexico-Toluca Interurban Train, in which we are participating, the changing of the original path heavily impacted the estimated costs and budget that was established at the outset. We are currently discussing the extraordinary costs with the government and the real impact is being analyzed. From my point of view, these setbacks will impact the viability of the project drastically. As a strategic project, it is supposed to be finished by the end of President Peña Nieto’s term.

Q: Why has the third section of the interurban train been more complicated than the rest of the project?

A: When this project was tendered, having it operate in phases was not considered because it did not seem like there would be a problem adhering to the established budget and time. Although it seems more logical to have the urban section operating initially as a way to generate income to fund the rest of the project, that section is the most complicated due to social and environmental issues, particularly in the Observatorio area. Toluca-Marquesa has advanced quickly.