Costa Agaete

Staying on Track: An Unmovable Mountain vs. Our Tough Team.

Big challenge, mountain hardness vs. team toughness.

12 of June of 2020

One of the properties of a material is its resilience. This is measured by dropping a heavy pendulum that hits a sample of the material and breaks it, making the pendulum lose some of the energy it had. In short, the height reached by the oscillating mass after breaking can be used to determine whether a material breaks easily or instead offers high resistance to breaking.

This term has also been adopted in coaching and psychology to convey an individual’s ability to overcome hardship, augmenting their drive toward and outlook on bigger and bigger challenges.

Resilience is precisely one of the general characteristics that define my colleagues at Ferrovial.

The challenge of El Risco Agaete in Gran Canaria

Almost eight months ago, work began on the El Risco Agaete Highway, a new 8-km road in the northern part of the island of Gran Canaria. It runs through a steep landscape, more akin to cinematographic dreamscapes than the typical image of the Canary Islands. The project will require building eight tunnels and two viaducts, so only two of the eight kilometers in length will be above ground in the open air.

In construction, completion of a tunnel is commonly a cause for celebration. This completion happens when two teams come together, connecting the two caverns and thus enabling passage through the mountain. This success necessarily comes after some very hard work. Surely, we will celebrate many of these meetings. However, today I would like to celebrate the start of one of the tunnels, the Faneque tunnel. This is the project’s largest tunnel, having two tubes that are each two km long.

Risco de Faneque

The Faneque tunnel

There is no way around the extraordinary difficulty of creating accesses to the pits where the mouths of the tunnels and the viaduct abutments are located. These cliffs, petrified in basalt as a product of volcanic eruptions that shaped the Canary archipelago, slope almost straight up. On top of that is another major difficulty: tunnel excavations require the use of explosives, given the basalt’s hardness. This challenge becomes an almost impregnable barrier, considering the restrictions of the distance to communication routes and properties established by Explosives Regulations for installing powder kegs that will store the one million kilograms of explosives necessary to complete our work.

As such, we have had to think hard and analyze various possibilities to find a type of explosive suitable for the project’s conditions. We are working on it, and we hope that we will soon be able to write another chapter in the book of innovation, adding to the extensive library we already have. This avenue requires countless administrative procedures, including administrative authorizations and temporary expropriations to build the magazines, and facilitating the logistics needed to carry out the work. However, we cannot just stand by and wait as this possibility takes shape.

Overcoming challenges and building resilience

With creativity, work, and effort, we will overcome the difficulties of accessing such impossible slopes; we will find the right places to store our explosives; we will adapt, and are adapting, to the new normal imposed by the Covid-19 health emergency. But today, I want to share our joy for having started drilling the mountain, and though we are used to celebrating work once finished, we must remember that, to get there, we must first begin. We started the excavation with mechanical approaches, and we’ve already moved through the first 20 meters while the possibility of blasting is being resolved.

The pendulum falls hard, putting many challenges in our path, but our ability to face problems, as I said, is in our DNA. We are tougher than the rock we’re tunneling through. We have already begun the fight: the toughness of the mountain versus the commitment and determination of our team. We are confident that we will be victorious in this challenge. With that victory, our resilience will reach even greater heights, and we will be ready for even greater challenges – both our team and the entire organization that is behind us.

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