The modernization and expansion of the Road between Bogotá and Girardot It is one of the most important infrastructure projects that are currently being developed in Cundinamarca. track 40 express is the concession in charge and after the exit of Conconcreto, Vinci Highways became the main shareholder with a 75 percent stake.
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In an interview with EL TIEMPO, Laurent Cavrois, CEO of Vinci Highways Latam and Vía 40 Express Reveal how the works of the project are progressing, which in April modified the financial closure.
What is the progress of the project?
We started the works almost two years ago and we are exceeding a 30 percent overall progress. We have finished Functional Unit (UF) 8 and have just made available to the National Infrastructure Agency (ANI) UF1, which is the largest of the entire project. We did it in accordance with the contractual dates and, even, at the end of 2023 we are going to deliver the UF4.
With these two deliveries and with the progress of the other sections, by the end of this year we will have completed half, if not of the project, at least the length of the expansion and rehabilitation of the corridor.
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Is that progress in line with the schedule?
We are in accordance with the contractual schedule agreed with the ME TOO. We had problems in the past, but we agreed to mechanisms to compensate for the inconvenience of the pandemic and other factors. The project will be finished at the end of 2025 or beginning of 2026.
We have less than three years of work left and the global investment will be a little more than 5 trillion pesos. We are very aware of the difficulties and the impact that the works have on traffic and that is why we are being as light as possible.
Will the delivery of sections help improve mobility by the end of the year?
Surely the entire southern corridor is going to flow much better. The works will be concentrated next year further north, between Soacha and Fusagasuga, then there will be discomfort in this part of the corridor. We are working as hard as we can to minimize this inconvenience for users using the North Side.
Has the macroeconomic situation affected your financing?
We are affected by inflation because it makes supplies more expensive and another issue that affects us is the rise in interest rates. It’s a good sign that we’ve achieved financial close in a bit of a choppy market and it’s good news for the project because it gives us visibility into long-term financial costs.
Can the exit of Conconcreto affect the progress of the project?
Not because Vinci is a global company and we have very strong parent company support in terms of financial and technical capacity and project management. There is no difficulty for the construction or to fulfill the responsibilities that we have.
The financial closing of the project is a good example of the fact that the stakeholders in the sector recognize our leadership in the matter and our ability to carry out the project. It’s not a problem (the departure of Conconcreto), it’s more of an opportunity.
How much can the toll freeze affect them?
When a country turns to investors to make its infrastructure program a reality, the initial commitment is to have a predictable legal and economic framework for these businesses in the long term, there is also an agreement so that this framework is not altered.
The most important thing with this decision that the Government made is to be able to guarantee that the commitments that were made within the legal and contractual framework are going to be fulfilled. In our case, to date we have no problems. We will be very attentive to our colleagues in the CCI (Colombian Chamber of Infrastructure) so that those rules of the game are not really altered.
It is easier to freeze than to thaw, so we will also be very attentive and hope that it is really an exceptional situation. we are inside a macroeconomic framework very exceptional, but we must not let this become the rule, even with very solid contractual mechanisms, the equations will no longer be able to be given and they will end up costing the Nation’s Budget too much.
Are you interested in other projects in the country?
At Grupo Vinci we have a clear strategy and that is that we are investing for the long term. We will be here for at least 30 years because it is the term of the contract and during these years we will look for other opportunities. We depend a little on the project plan presented by the ANI, we are betting on Colombia and we think it is a country with a lot of potential.
To take advantage of that potential, what aspects should be improved?
He National Development Plan It is ideal as long as a State has the desire to plan and order priorities. We are not here to give lessons or explain what is a priority, but we always insist that there be a planning effort and alienation of various sectors because it is positive that the plans are executed.
We, for the moment, are supporting and looking very positively at the current efforts to articulate priorities. We feel that there will be opportunities for us within the planes presented by the Government.
In terms of licensing and social conflict, is there anything to improve?
These are very difficult, delicate and common issues in all the countries of the region. What we always say is that we want projects that are accepted in the long term and we have to take care of the preliminary phases, because otherwise they are not sustainable. We strongly insist that the private sector cannot carry out projects alone, we must have a very clear distribution of roles and be able to carry out our obligations within a well-defined framework.
Is it feasible to replace tolls with recovery charges?
From my experience in other countries, this idea of recovering part of the value of an infrastructure is valid, but you have to build the instruments and be able to recover this value. What you haven’t seen are schemes where valorization replaces tolls because in the end the tolls balance the costs of capital and operations.