A conversation with Eng. António Sousa
A conversation with Eng. António Sousa
‘Brisa stopped seeing infrastructures only as a channel that receives vehicles and focused on people, […] on the global universe of mobility, and is already present in other segments of the chain.’
Eng. António Sousa, tell us about your professional career. How did you come to Brisa’s management?
I am a civil engineer, by training, and I started with projects at Consulplano, after graduating in structures, which was my specialization. I spent two years there and then moved to the Junta Autónoma das Estradas. I left the projects area and started doing a little bit of everything, but on the side of public administration. Between the headquarters in Almada, working roads management in Beja’s district, and returning to the headquarters, 17 years have passed. I ended up as a service director and this was a journey that I am proud of and in which I learned a lot. I was 40 years old when the opportunity to become Technical General Director in the private sector – Brisa. I decided to accept this challenge since I believe that changes are positive and, at the time, this change made sense in my life. There were also changes in between, there was a 4-year experience abroad that was very challenging. It was as a result of this experience that I was invited to Brisa’s administration, where I remain after 10 years.
Brisa is a company that has always been innovating. And the world of mobility is constantly changing. How would you describe the company’s evolution?
I joined the company in 1999, at a time of great growth, of infrastructure construction that was absolutely necessary for the country. At that time, Brisa was practically alone, there were no other concessions. Ten years after I joined, the network was practically completed. This past decade has also represented a very important change, which I think Brisa has been able to do very well. On the one hand, it surpassed the phase of not having construction and focused on the operation, regarding tolls and road maintenance. On the other hand, it followed the evolution concerning mobility. Brisa stopped seeing infrastructures only as a channel that receives vehicles and focused on people. It fully integrated this global universe of mobility and is already present in other segments of this chain, mainly through Via Verde. We shall not also forget the role of innovation it represents in this universe, regarding the ease of operation and tools to better manage infrastructures.
Are the objectives of reducing asymmetries in different regions fulfilled? What are the main challenges for the future?
In Portugal, clearly. We will always have one or two segments needing attention but today we have a quality network and the challenge is to know how to maintain it. Like everything else, infrastructures age, which is why we have a large Asset Management project to manage the condition of our network. In the early years, we invested a lot of money in building the infrastructure. People sometimes ask “why do you have to pay tolls?”. The truth is that, in addition to this initial investment, we now have the maintenance issue, which also consumes appreciable amounts. From the floors to the structures, everything requires maintenance and must be in more than acceptable conditions, especially regarding safety but also comfort. Considering the number of infrastructures that Brisa has, it is a huge challenge to know how to take care of them, with quality and controlled costs, hence the great importance of the Asset Management project.
Betar has worked with Brisa for over 35 years, having developed many engineering projects – since the beginning of A1 – and for more than 10 years that it has been in Asset Management – with GOA. What do you look for in the companies that work with you?
Betar is a long-standing partner. Concerning Asset Management, we have been talking, since Betar is unavoidable in this area. We have upgraded GOA and are getting Betar involved in other registration issues. And there are many more things to do. Asset Management in road infrastructure projects is not something that is very advanced, compared to other industries, and therefore there is a learning path to take. There were other industries that, mainly due to collapsing situations, had to move faster in the search for solutions, such as the rail and energy networks. In the road network, we have to find, with partners, the best solutions for this management. The recent episode of the bridge in Genoa shows us that we have to be very attentive to everything.
Betar has also sought, and managed, to do research and innovation, just like Brisa. How do you see Betar’s collaboration with Brisa in the future?
Our collaboration with Betar will continue and probably deepen because we feel that Betar is one of those who are ahead in this area. It has products that reach almost the entire market in Portugal, and beyond, and always seeks to innovate them. We already have this experience, so we will certainly count on Betar for future involvement regarding our projects. We are on the same line, we think the same way.
This interview is an integral part of Revista Artes & Letras # 101, October 2018
Partially automatic translation from portuguese: some expressions may differ from their actual meaning.
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