Although Sacyr started out in the area of road maintenance in June 2005, it was not until 2015 that it began began to expand internationally. Sacyr Conservación currently maintains close to 12,000 kilometres of dual carriageways, motorways and conventional roads. In Spain it has 20 contracts at present and its international presence means it is in Chile (17 contracts), Mexico (one contract), Peru (four contracts) and Uruguay (one contract).
Juan Manuel Sánchez Moreira, a civil engineer and the Technical Director of VCI, told us about how Sacyr Conservación has organised winter road maintenance on Spanish roads.
When does the winter weather plan become activated?
For all road maintenance, of whatever level, a Winter Road Maintenance Operating Plan has been drawn up. This plan covers the human resources and materials (machinery and stockpiles of de-icing elements) which are assigned to the contract and, therefore, are active and ready in the event of a severe winter weather warning. Naturally, this plan is drawn up by the road maintenance area and is reviewed and approved by the contract managers. The AEMET is the organisation that sends forecasts to the road service for the province which, in turn, is responsible for conveying them to the road maintenance teams in order to be prepared, according to their operating plan. This plan covers the different situations which can arise as part of an alert. These are:
Low temperatures. In this case, only preventive action is taken, in most cases using brine. The brine used is a water solution containing 20% sodium chloride, and the action also involves the resources that perform this treatment. The duration of the preventive action depends on the temperatures recorded on each stretch of road.
Slight snowfall. When this alert is given, the preventive treatment begins and, in addition to this, the resources established in the Operating Plan are gathered at the link points for the stretch of road where snow is forecast. These machines have set routes and stockpile areas, which will only be altered if the head of road maintenance orders this.
Heavy snow along the entire stretch of road. In this situation, the preventive treatment has been carried out in the days beforehand. Twelve hours before a storm is due to arrive, all the resources assigned to the contract are gathered at the link points as laid down in the operating plan.
This operating plan also covers coordination between bodies. The highest authority is the state government representative or their deputy, who is the person able to request help from the Military Emergency Unit, or UNE (Unidad Militar de Emergencia), in the event the situation becomes critical. These plans include the creation of an emergency bureau made up of the contract managers, the company commissioned to perform the road maintenance and the traffic regulating body in the area (the respective state and regional police forces, such as the Guardia Civil, Mozos de Escuadra and Ertzaintza).
What resources does SACYR CONSERVACION have for these situations?
Sacyr Conservación currently possesses more than 120 snow ploughs throughout Spain in the locations where we have been contracted. We also have stockpiles of solid de-icing elements (sodium chloride, or road salt) amounting to 80,000 tonnes, and stockpiles of liquid de-icing elements (brine) amounting to half a million litres. In practically all the contracts, we have brine manufacturing plants.
It is important to stress that winter road maintenance shifts are 12-hour shifts and the entire workforce works on a rotating schedule. It can be said that each shift has a shift manager (an engineer), a team leader, a mechanic to perform minor repairs and change plough blades, as many drivers as there are snow ploughs, surveillance staff to monitor the stretch of road, staff in the control centre (if any) and two people at the brine manufacturing plant.
What are the current contracts held by SACYR CONSERVACIÓN for winter road maintenance?
The contracts held by Sacyr Conservación where winter road maintenance plays a major role are:
- The A-1 dual carriageway, Autovía del Norte A-1, from kilometre 101 to kilometre 246
- The AP-1 motorway
- The Autovía de las Rias Bajas dual carriageway, from kilometre 0 to kilometre 112
- The N-525, from kilometre 0 to kilometre 115
- The AP-66 motorway, Autopista Leon Campomanes
In 2015, Sacyr Conservación, which has always been committed to R&D&i, developed a snow plough simulator in order to provide training for new drivers who were hired for the road maintenance contracts. Using the simulator, new workers gain experience which in the past was gained on the job; this means that plough operators who have little or no experience can deal with complicated situations they have been drilled in beforehand using the simulator.
Sacyr Conservación has not only managed to consolidate its position as the leading company in the sector but has also won the 10th national award for road maintenance safety given by ACEX (X Premio Nacional ACEX a la Seguridad en Conservación).