The Spanish island of Tenerife is not only one of Spain’s most popular tourist destinations - welcoming over 5 million tourists per year - it could also lay claim to having the fastest-growing population of any region in Europe. Between 2000 and 2017, its population rose from 709,365 to 865,070 - an increase of a phenomenal 3.14% per year. Fast forward to 2018, and the population is closing in on 900,000 people.
Clearly, there’s something to Tenerife that makes a lot of people want to stay but the population growth, aside from helping the local economy flourish, also means that the island’s transport network needed to accommodate the new reality. With so many people relocating to the island, it didn’t make logistical sense for everyone to drive - ultimately generating traffic jams and taking from the idyllic setting.
It’s a fascinating story about a piece of paradigm-changing piece of infrastructure. Andrés Muñoz de Dios, Managing Director at Metropolitano de Tenerife recently spoke with Business Excellence about the company and its operations, the difference that it has made to live on the island and where it sees itself heading in the years ahead.
Metropolitano de Tenerife (or simply, “Metrotenerife”) is a publicly-owned company which directly manages the commercial operations of Tenerife’s tram system but also provides services and technical assistance in matters of planning, building, operations and railway infrastructure all over the world.
The network has two tram lines which connect the main places of interest in the metropolitan area of the island of Tenerife, Santa Cruz, the capital of the island, and La Laguna, a World Heritage site. Line 1 connects the economic, and commercial, educational and health related centres in the two cities. Line 2 provides service in areas of high population density located on the edge of the urban centres of Santa Cruz and La Laguna. The whole route, line 1 and 2, has around 16.1 kilometres and 26 stops in total.
Founded back in 2001, as Mr. Muñoz de Dios tells us, its goal was clear from the outset: “the aim was to lessen congestion in Santa Cruz, facilitating and satisfying the demand for mobility of both the people living on the island of Tenerife and its visitors.” Given the number of people which already use the system in their daily lives, the system can already said to have delivered on that goal.
Mr. Muñoz de Dios says: “Last year, we celebrated the tenth anniversary of the Tranvía de Tenerife with over 140 million passenger journeys. In this time, we have grown exponentially with projects both in Spain and abroad, with accessibility, sustainability and innovation being our main features. Since 2011, we have been the only means of collective transport in Spain to have AENOR's Universal Accessibility certification in the entirety of our service activities after having successfully passed the annual external audits for renewal.”
The company is also something of a technology innovator, as he points out: “ we have developed the Vía-Móvil application, an integral ticketing system using the user's mobile, and On-board Vehicle Speed Monitoring System (SIMOVE), which continuously supervises the speed of the tram in real time in each section with the aim of preventing accidents caused by excess speed such as the Croydon accident in London.”
As the previous section indicated, Metrotenerife has become an integral part of life on the island in little over a decade since being delivered. Mr. Muñoz de Dios tells us: The implementation of the tram meant, without doubt, an improvement in the quality of life of the citizens who live and travel in the metropolitan area of Tenerife. Both Line 1 and Line 2 involved significant re-urbanisation in the areas bordering on the network, an increase in green spaces, greater territorial cohesion as it brought populous districts closer together, shortening journey times, and offering a reliable, punctual, sustainable and competitive service making the metropolitan area of the island an enormous commercial zone served by the tram.”
He continues: “From a business perspective, Metrotenerife is a significant source of work, both directly and indirectly. For example, we have a staff of 180 employees, but there is also the staff of the companies which daily deal with such related services as cleaning, gardening, security, and such like, which amounts to a further thirty people. Let it also be said that we boost local companies which can help us in the development of future projects for export of services of consultancy or products. We have already achieved significant technical assistance contracts for overseas projects where we work with local companies to export our experience and manpower.
Popular holiday destinations like Tenerife face ongoing challenges in attracting more tourists and maintaining standards of sustainability, so from that perspective, the introduction of the tram - with its ability to take thousands of cars from the streets every day - is a highly positive step in the right direction, and as Mr. Muñoz de Dios says: “sustainability is one of our watchwords.” He points out that Metrotenerife makes an effort to reduce the size of its ecological footprint in the provision of its service and in the management of the company by applying an energy efficiency plan which helped it to obtain the Environmental Certification from AENOR (March 2012).
He adds: “We have photovoltaic power installations on the roof of our headquarters. With peak power of 880 kWp and 6,000 square metres of solar panels. This solar plant produced 14.75% of the energy consumed by the company in 2017. We have also increased our fleet of auxiliary vehicles, which are one hundred per cent electric. In the last four months of last year, practically all of our units were eco-efficient.”
Partners and Suppliers
Tenerife’s location between America, Europe and Africa gives Metrotenerife access to a greater number of partners and suppliers than many companies of its kind. Mr. Muñoz de Dios says: “we have a perfectly qualified and trained local workforce with companies which help us in the operation of the service and in our overseas projection; this good fortune is also positive for them.”
What the future holds
The success of Metrotenerife has led the team behind it to be contracted as a consultant on many other global city tram systems, including the Train-Tram of the Bay of Cadiz; the Malaga tram on training of drivers, and with the Zaragoza tram, in technical assistance for ticketing, training in maintenance of the rolling stock and management of stores for the Rabat-Salé tram (Morocco) and consultancy for the extension of the Jerusalem tram network (Israel).
Demand is also coming from further afield: Metrotenerife has also signed contracts with Cuenca (Ecuador) and Lima (Peru). The Cuenca deal is for consulting in the pre-operation and operaation of the city’s tram work, for about 36 months. In Peru, the project, under the title ‘improvement of the railway corridor between Eastern Lima and Chosica” is a consulting project to adapt an existing freight railway to become a high-capacity mixed line.
All of this generates revenue, which in turn can be used to benefit the tram in Tenerife, making it self-sustainable from a financial perspective, but also allows it to learn from other systems around the world - a truly outward-looking system which is set for the 21st century. Metrotenerife has irrevocably changed the experience of getting around the urban areas of the island for its residents and visitors alike - it truly has been a revolution in movement.