"Thousands of pieces of hardware will send billions pieces of information and data..."
As the eighth longest metro system in the world, Metro de Madrid, serves the Spanish capital and roughly 560 million passengers a year. Nearly one-hundred years old, the first metro line in Madrid opened on the 17th October 1919, the line between Puerta del Sol and Cuatro Caminos was 3.48km long and it took just 10 minutes to travel its entire length. The line revolutionised travel through the city dramatically cutting people’s journey times. Despite its quirks – Metro de Madrid trains drive on the left, whilst the rest of Spain drive on the right, and it has the most escalators of any system in the world (1,698 in total!) – the network is one of the fastest in the world and easily rivals newer metros operating across Asia. So, who ensures that these lines are maintained and new engineering innovations are embraced? Carlos Esquíroz, Director of Engineering and Maintenance at Metro de Madrid and this week’s interviewee. Esquíroz sits with SmartRail World reporter, Sarah Wright to discuss the last two decades that he has spent working at the metro, the changes that he has seen and how he thinks Metro de Madrid will continue to revolutionise the way that people travel.
Sarah Wright (SW): How did you get into the rail industry?
Carlos Esquíroz (CE): In 1994 Metro de Madrid was facing a complex transformation from a very classic railway company into one which was much more dynamic. The local government had extremely ambitious plans for expanding the network, but to make their plan work there would need to be a deep transformation of the culture within Metro de Madrid. Bearing this in mind they hired new engineers for transform the company, and I was a member of this new team.
SW: What do like most about your job?
CE: I joined Metro de Madrid ( @ ) almost 23 years ago. At the very beginning to working for Metro de Madrid was just another job. I still remember the “old people” whom had been working in the metro industry for a very long time telling me that “metro hooks”. And I can now say that they were right! The very best part of my job is that as a direct result of my work I am able to better society through improving the public service network that Metro de Madrid is responsible for.
SW: What’s the biggest challenge in your role?
CE: Resistance to change. In a public mass transit system any single change is extremely visible for everybody, not only travelers. It means that you need not only to get the “green light” from your Board of Directors, but to “push” other actors like unions, the local and regional administrations, the transport authorities, consumer associations and so on. Then on the other side, you have to pull your team and other departments together for a successful collaboration.
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SW: What will be some of the biggest differences between rail now and in 10 years’ time?
CE: All the technology will be connected, with the devices all 'speaking' to each other. From a set of brakes on a train to a turnstile in the ticket hall. Thousands of pieces of hardware will send billions pieces of information and data. And we’ll have the capacity to 'hear' all of them, meaning we can make decisions in advance of problems occuring and get the most out of our assets. But, we will need both virtual ears and a brain to hear and understand what it all means.
This would mean a real change for our industry. For instance, we’ll have the capacity to get real time data from a train stopped in a middle of a route, inside a tunnel, full of travellers that want to resume their travel as soon as possible. To reduce the time lost because of a service interruption we need people who are not only connected by the tools but who also have the knowledge to understand what the equipment or related devices is telling you – an understanding of the symptoms which drive you to the root cause of a technical problem. With this knowledge we can provide instant assistance to train operators and give advice to driver in order to recover the train functionality or, at least, move train to next station. If we fail in that trailing this, we’ll have a lot of noise and investments with a lack of “social profitability” and that is the challenge.
SW: What’s your favourite rail journey?
CE: In the North of Spain there are an old narrow gauge train that runs in parallel with the Cantabric seashore. From Bilbao to Gijón, it’s a long, almost linear network which moves across one of most beautiful landscapes in our country. And the old train which runs along the line has now been transformed in a commuter service, running over the same routes and rails that they would have run over a hundred years ago. It’s not quick, but it’s one of the most beautiful classic rail trips you can do!
5 minutes with… You? Each Friday the team here at SmartRail World brings you a new 5 minutes with... interview. This fun, fast-paced feature will help you get to know more about personalities across the industry, their ideas and experiences and of course their own favourite rail journey! Want to take part? Email: email@example.com to find out more.
The last 5 minutes with... John Guiry, Chief Executive Officer, Royal Railways Cambodia.
Next week's 5 minutes with... TBC