- “I acknowledge the great work being done by our employees, who leave home day after day to provide an essential service in conditions of great adversity.”
- “Our primary goal is to protect the health of our employees”
Ignacio Madridejos (Madrid, 1965) took office as CEO of Ferrovial last October. Things have moved very quickly since then. First, he presented the Horizon 24 Plan, which orients the company towards sustainable infrastructure. Now, he is dealing with the coronavirus crisis. Ignacio Madridejos is a Civil Engineer. He started at Agroman, then moved to McKinsey and later CEMEX, where he spent the bulk of his career. This interview was conducted by e-mail, due the constraints of teleworking.
How are you experiencing the situation created by COVID-19?
The COVID-19 pandemic is something that hardly any of us ever thought possible. This is an exceptional time for humanity, one that we should face as good citizens, with determination and serenity. It tests us a society, as a company, and as individuals. We don’t know how long it may last, but I am convinced that we will overcome it. We will be safe again and be able to work as normal, and the economy will recover.
What steps has Ferrovial taken to address this crisis?
Our highest priority is to make sure our workplaces are safe and to protect the health of our employees and clients, by following the guidelines of the WHO and the authorities in each country. For that reason, the company has taken measures that include job flexibility, teleworking, a freeze on business trips, and the provision of appropriate protective equipment for the employees who need it. We seek to reconcile protecting people’s health, which is our primary goal, while ensuring business continuity, which is critical in these times as we provide essential services.
Ferrovial operates in a broad range of businesses. How is that affecting your approach to the crisis?
We make an important contribution to society in areas that are now crucial. The ones that first come to mind are hospital maintenance, ambulances, emergency call centers, and city cleaning and maintenance. I’d also like to recognize the great work being done by all the professionals who are on the front line addressing the pandemic, and so many others who leave home day after day to provide essential services to our community in very adverse conditions. In Spain alone, we have 8,000 people working in the healthcare sector, maintaining 40,000 hospital beds. In the United Kingdom, our people play an important role in maintaining Defense facilities and social centers, providing food for children in need, and managing waste from half a million homes.
The company is also reaching out to support the community, I believe.
That’s right. We are trying to leverage our capabilities to contribute new solutions that can avoid the collapse of the healthcare services. We have been very actively involved in developing an app for the Spanish Government and the Madrid Regional Government to support people who may have COVID-19. We did this on a pro bono basis in cooperation with other technology companies. We were also involved in setting up the 5,500-bed field hospital at the Madrid convention center. We have made more than 800 parking spaces available free of charge to health workers fighting this pandemic in Madrid, at Serrano Park, and Santander, at the Valdecilla Hospital, to make their lives a little easier. We are also designing ventilators and masks using 3D technology. And we are moving forward with formulas to help with healthcare material and equipment. They will be announced in due course.
How many cases of coronavirus have you had in the company?
We are currently aware of 90 employees who tested positive for COVID-19 and another 1,200 who are in self-isolation with symptoms. They and their families know that they have our full support in this time of uncertainty.
How is the pandemic affecting the Group’s business lines?
This very complex situation and the climate of uncertainty are affecting all our activities. Fortunately, Ferrovial is facing it with a record liquidity position — around 6 billion euro — and the ability to service both the parent company’s debt and that of the main infrastructure assets. That will enable us to emerge from this crisis in a stronger position. We also have top-class assets, we have experience, and, above all, we have a team that demonstrates the value of this company and the role it plays in society.
What about the impact on traffic and on construction projects?
We see road traffic down about 60% as a result of the virus. The airports are also feeling the effects. Heathrow has reorganized and curtailed operations, but it will remain open to allow some passenger traffic and to safeguard the United Kingdom’s critical supply lines. In the Construction and Services divisions, we remain in contact with clients to decide how to organize the work while safeguarding our workers’ health. In some cases, depending on the local situation, work has been halted and contracts suspended. This has occurred during this past week in Spain.
What do you see as the recipe for overcoming this crisis?
I think the key factors are: unity among all of us, solidarity with those who need it most, and responsibility as members of society. Once the worst has passed, we must work on the recovery. I am convinced that we will overcome this situation.