Henry Poupart-Lafarge (Nancy, France, 1969) has been the CEO of Alstom since April 2016, and has piloted the merger with Bombardier, which has already been completed for more than a year, to create the second largest railway manufacturer in the world after the Chinese CRRC.
Ask. More than a year has passed since the integration of Alstom and Bombardier.
Response. The integration is proceeding at a much faster rate than I expected. The new organization is fully deployed, the product range and processes are converging, and both teams now work as one. More than 90% of our employees and 90% of customers are satisfied with the way we managed this integration.
P. Have the expectations and synergies you announced been met?
R. The rationale for this acquisition has been fully confirmed: two highly complementary companies, merging to better address the growing challenges of sustainable mobility. With the acquisition of Bombardier Transportation, Alstom has reinforced its leadership in this expanding market. We have reached an adequate size in all geographies and improved our capacity for innovation.
P. How has the pandemic affected the rail business?
He knows in depth all the sides of the coin.
R. The pandemic has been a challenge, but it has also been a formidable accelerator, driving a collective awareness of the need for an economy that respects the environment. The commitment to green mobility has never been so intense. The announcements of the different governments around the world multiply to relaunch rail transport as sustainable.
P. Raw materials and electricity have skyrocketed due to inflation.
R. Our energy costs are less than 1%, so we are not an energy-intensive industry.
P. And the invasion of Ukraine by Russia?
R. Alstom has around 30 employees in Russia and the group’s revenue there is less than 0.5% of consolidated sales. The group has decided to suspend all deliveries to Russia and is complying with all applicable laws and sanctions.
P. Everyone talks about hydrogen trains.
R. The hydrogen train is an alternative and environmentally friendly solution for non-electrified lines. Alstom has been a pioneer in developing this technology, with the completely emission-free Coradia iLint hydrogen train. It entered service in September 2018, in Lower Saxony (Germany), and today has more than 200,000 kilometers of operating experience in commercial circulation. We have received orders for hydrogen trains from Germany, Italy and France. Alstom is the first and only player in the market with an operational hydrogen train.
P. What does Spain mean as a world market for the group?
R. Spain is a key country. Alstom has been investing heavily here since the 1980s, when it decided to bet on its railway transformation, buying four public industrial companies and, since then, being a key player in the evolution and modernization of the railway sector in Spain. Today, we have more than 3,000 employees, two modern factories in Barcelona and Bilbao, two state-of-the-art signaling centers in Madrid for urban and interurban operations, and more than 15 workshops for maintenance and digital services.
In recent decades, beyond our contribution to high speed, Alstom has helped deploy modern tram systems in Spanish cities, state-of-the-art metros, urban signaling control systems, the concept of shuttle trains, the latest technologies ERTMS, automatic operations, etc. It should be noted that the centers in Spain are also a world reference for the entire Group, with centers of excellence in signaling, train manufacturing and propulsion technologies. This allows us to export from Spain to the whole world (Panama, Australia, Canada, Singapore, Egypt, Dubai or Germany, to mention a few recent examples).
Spanish market, on the rise
P. How is the Spanish market behaving in the last fiscal year?
R. It is too early to give data for the last fiscal year. Corporate results will be published on May 11. Last year, thanks to the integration of Bombardier Transportation, Alstom doubled its activity in Spain, today being a local company with a turnover of around 700 million, more than 60% of sales coming from exports
P. What orders does Alstom currently have in Spain in manufacturing and what are the contracts it is opting for in the future?
R. All the Alstom trains that circulate in Spain have been manufactured in Santa Perpètua (Barcelona) and more than 1,000 qualified employees dedicated to signaling and digital mobility projects. We are currently developing large projects from Spain. To mention a few: high-capacity suburban trains for Renfe and regional trains for Luxembourg; Metros to Singapore, Barcelona and Santo Domingo and trams to Cologne, Frankfurt and Casablanca; predictive and corrective maintenance for the Renfe fleet (high speed, regional and suburban), the Ouigo fleet (high speed), metros, trams and a unique automatic mobility system in Spain (People Mover, at T4 of the Madrid- Barajas), signage for local and international projects.
At a local level, we develop track equipment for Adif, Renfe, Talgo, CAF and Stadler. But, in addition, the Spanish teams are participating in large international signaling projects, such as the Cairo Metro, the Maya Project, high-speed lines in Turkey or on-board equipment for different European fleets.
All this shows that we have the local capacity to fully develop any type of project from Spain: manufacture and design of rolling stock, traction systems, urban and interurban control and signaling systems, People Mover and turnkey systems, as well as the maintenance, rehabilitation, modernization, repair and overhaul of all kinds of railway components.
P. Are you going to request a review from Renfe of the latest contracts awarded, such as, for example, that of the Cercanías trains due to the rise in prices?
R. A Spanish law of 2015 decouples public contracts from the evolution of the CPI. Recently, the Government has promulgated a decree law that allows the review of civil works contracts under certain conditions. We hope that in the near future industrial contracts can also benefit from a similar decree law.
P. With liberalization in Spain, three high-speed operators already operate or are about to do so (Renfe, Ouigo and Iryo). Will it mean more orders?
R. Passenger figures show that new competitors come to expand the market, not to share it. And it is also good news for the environment. Spain is an attractive country for operators: we have first-class infrastructures, the largest high-speed network in Europe, a constantly growing demand for mobility and, in a normal context, more than 80 million tourists a year. The high-speed market has enormous growth potential on all lines.
P. In Spain, in addition to Alstom, there are two manufacturers such as Talgo and CAF and Stadler Rail which, although it is Swiss, also has a factory in Valencia. Do you think a consolidation of the sector is necessary?
R. We have always said that our industry would see a level of consolidation, as we have seen in other industry sectors. Our merger with Bombardier Transportation is one example, making us the second largest company in the sector, after CRRC, and the largest international company in the rail market.
P. Are you going to continue investing in the factories that Alstom has in Spain? Do they have enough workload?
R. In addition to the acquisition of the land where our factory in Barcelona is located, we have continued to invest in Spain, expanding and modernizing, for example, the facilities and equipment of the Santa Perpètua factory to be able to face the significant increase in capacity that the center in the coming years. Recently, we have also incorporated new automated equipment at the Trápaga plant, and a new service center has just been inaugurated in Madrid for the manufacture, maintenance and inspection of bogies and their components. We have also developed the first Digital Services center, in charge of predictive maintenance in real time and a fundamental link in the development of the digital train.
In 2021, we launched an unprecedented hiring and growth plan. Alstom Spain made more than 450 new hires in the last year, both in Barcelona, in the industrial center of Santa Perpètua, and in Madrid, in the area of digital mobility. We currently have more than 250 job offers available in Spain in all kinds of fields, both for operators and welders as well as for engineers, mathematicians, data experts, technicians and other support functions. Therefore, we have the capacity, and the ambition, to continue growing and developing in Spain.
P. Are they going to opt for the European recovery funds?
R. Alstom in Spain has participated, together with other partners, in several expressions of interest related to the introduction of our proven hydrogen technology for trains or digital mobility solutions for passengers and operators, and we are in contact with different public bodies and regional institutions to participate in the bidding processes.
P. The Spanish competition authorities (CNMC) have imposed a fine of 22 million on Alstom along with a dozen other companies for dividing up the contracts in Spain.
R. Alstom remains fully committed to the principles of business ethics. We have a solid compliance program, which guarantees strict respect for the laws and regulations in force in all the countries in which the Group operates, with the prevention of corruption and the elimination of anti-competitive practices as top priority.