Spanish contracting giant Acciona has set its sights on UK expansion and will use its bid for High Speed 2 work to propel itself into the market, its UK managing director has said.
Speaking exclusively to Construction News, Jaime Vega said the company was eyeing work on Crossrail 2 and the roads sector in particular, having taken its place on one of the joint ventures bidding for £12bn of HS2 packages.
He said: “We definitely are looking at other major infrastructure projects. Obviously you can’t do everything at once but we are definitely looking to grow in this area.
“Of course Crossrail 2 would be one of these, and because things are very well planned ahead of time, the best thing to do for us is get involved as soon as possible.
“But this is not one shot for us; it is a long-term trip.”
Acciona has its origins in the 1860s, but was created under its current name in the 1990s after a merger between Spanish contractors Entrecanales y Távora and Cubiertas y MZOV.
Since then it has expanded into more than 30 countries, has a global workforce of more than 33,000 and an annual turnover of £5bn a year, half of which is in infrastructure.
Its infrastructure arm is made up of three sections: roads, rail and marine, and Mr Vega said that it was keen to explore UK opportunities in all three.
One of the areas of particular interest was roads.
He added that the government’s commitment to roads funding through the £11bn Roads Investment Strategy had made the sector particularly attractive for Acciona.
Mr Vega said: “We have three specialised infrastructure businesses so when you look at the RIS across the UK, we see many opportunities, they are very appealing.”
He added: “We are in conversations on a number of other projects too.”
Speaking about the appeal of the UK in general, Mr Vega said: “It is because all the ingredients are there.”
“You look at the UK, you will see that the government is backing major infrastructure investment and the success of projects like Crossrail and the Olympics shows the UK can do it.
“It looks like the right time [to become involved].”
Acciona’s only previous project in the UK was the Thames Water’s £250m desalination plant in Beckton, on which it worked in a JV with Atkins Water.
Mr Vega said the company was open to similar collaboration with established UK firms.
“It is all about teamwork of course,” Mr Vega said.
“Our strategic business plan is not to go in and buy companies; it is instead to get together and partner with someone who knows about the market.”
Acciona will work with John Sisk and Lagan Construction Group on a JV bidding for civils work for HS2.
The firm has experience of high-speed rail in its native Spain, having constructed 1,200 km of track and 160 km of tunnels across country’s network.
It has also led high-speed rail tunnelling projects in Italy and in Norway where it was recently given the contract to construct a £600m tunnel linking Oslo and Ski.
Mr Vega insisted the Acciona consortium had capacity to bid for all seven civils packages on offer on HS2.
Mr Vega said: “I wouldn’t say there is anything specific; I quite like the whole project.
“Whatever the lot we go to, we would probably find something interesting.”
Acciona has also not ruled out bidding for the stations and rail systems packages that are expected to go out to tender in 2016 and 2017.
“Rail systems and stations are something we have to look at in the future.
“Within our company there is a lot of technical knowledge, we have teams for rail, we have teams for overhead lines, rail systems is something we can also do.”
Acciona has set up offices in the UK, where it works with teams from Sisk and Lagan Construction Group on the HS2 bid.
Commenting on the choice of partner, Mr Vega said there were similarities with the other “family-run” businesses, adding that it was also reassuring that John Sisk and Lagan Construction Group had worked closely with one another in the past.
“My feeling is that we are not like a three-partner JV; we are aiming to become just one and with Sisk and Lagan’s closer relationship that is easier to do,” he said.