Ruta del Cacao, Colombia
Design / build / finance / maintain / operate with option to extend for a further four years
Amount of projects close to completion (1 February 2021)
Amount John Laing acquired for £62 million in October 2019
Cintra / Ferrovial, Colpatria and Ashmore
The Ruta del Cacao project involves the development of 236 km of highway, providing a valuable connection between the cities of Bucaramanga, Barrancabermeja and Yond in the Santander Department of North-Eastern Colombia.
Colombia has historically lacked a comprehensive road structure and the Fourth Generation road infrastructure programme forms a central part of the government’s strategy to integrate the transport infrastructure, link industrial centres to major ports and encourage inter-regional trade and development.
Alongside the challenges of complex engineering, the project requires a sensitive approach to working alongside local communities, many of whom depend on the existing road network for their livelihoods. Together with the potential environmental implications of the development, the project has required careful planning and regular discussions with the local community.
The project has a team of 42 environmental and social experts leading the daily engagement with local communities. John Laing has appointed a dedicated ESG Manager to this team to work with the SPV management to support best ESG practices.
Forestry impact, mitigation and offset
Colombia requires construction projects to offset forestry impact and this project tackles it in two ways; around the project site and replanting in a dedicated area of protected land.
- Site level – many impacts around the project footprint have been managed with the replanting of 8,199 trees, using native species that have been rescued and stored in nurseries managed by the project.
- Additional protected land – at the end of 2020, the project proposed as environmental offset, the purchase of 1,400 hectares of land for planting additional trees.
The project has an overall goal of reducing emissions, including reducing construction vehicle fuel consumption by 5%.
- Construction greenhouse gases: 145,000 Tonnes of CO2
- Operations and maintenance: 911.73 Tn CO2 in 2020 (2019: 2,137 Tn CO2)
During construction, teams have been given training on efficient and safe driving, their fuel has been monitored on payment cards, vehicle speeds were tracked and additional bus services were provided to support the commuting workforce.
Reusing of excavation material
84% of material excavated has been reused in construction and any remaining material is managed for disposal in Zones of Disposal as approved by the Environment Agency.
The project has made use of 70% of the groundwater during tunnelling to both mitigate dust in construction as well as reduction in the reliance on surface water. Surplus water is then treated and purified before release into surrounding water supplies.
As of 31 December 2020, the project utilised only 25% of the surface water authorised by the Environmental Authority in construction activities.
The project established a seed capital fund for impacted livelihoods, which in 2020, benefitted 26 families. This has included support for street vendors to establish formal businesses from their houses, grocery stores, chicken production, small restaurants and local delivery services.
This project impacted the local school of Los Ángeles and with the consultation of the local communities it was relocated. The new school is substantially larger and now caters for five communities rather than one. It has expanded from solely elementary to including high school and offering improved ventilation and study areas and the inclusion of recreation and sports facilities.
As a significant new road in the region, the project was required to deliver a regional road safety programme to increase awareness for all road users.
In 2020, this reached 20 educational institutions (c. 1,600 students), and 10,579 road users (communities, transport companies, drivers, pedestrians, etc.) all with the support of the region’s traffic and transport police.
In 2020, 6,899 additional training courses were delivered along the project route, covering topics such as the use of protective and safety clothing, biosafety protocols, road safety, health and safety at work, risk and emergency management planning, safe movement of loads, bio-mechanical risk, mental health and personal well-being.
John Laing has two seats on the board of this project. Through the board roles the team has helped strengthen government policies, including ethics, anti-bribery and corruption and human rights.
This project has undertaken a public campaign to emphasise the strong role of ethics and governance with all stakeholders and established a whistle-blower programme. This includes a public statement of ethical standards with details of how complaints grievances can be made.
The project maintains and monitors details of third-party contractors and an exclusion list, throughout the contract cycle. Monitoring includes alerts generated for high-risk accounts according to the activity, the amount of the contract and the specific area being worked on.