Respect for the environment
Besides committing to construction of the line underground, one of the main criteria applied when designing the route was to keep it as far away as possible from urban centres and areas of highest population density, as well as from natural areas. For this reason, the interconnection makes as much use as possible of the already existing infrastructure layout, such as the AP-7 motorway and the high-speed railway.
In order to reduce the visual and environmental impact, the line passes under roads and railway lines via a system of micro-tunnels. The same system is used to cross rivers in order to reduce the impact on waterways and water levels.
Furthermore, the company met its commitment to use existing roads during construction work and restore them once work was complete. Oversight committees were set up in both Spain and France to control and verify compliance with all environmental protection measures.
In Spain, the project obtained an Environmental Impact Statement in late 2010. This essential report from the Spanish Ministry of Environmental Affairs guarantees that all environmental requirements are met. When defining a route for the interconnection, INELFE made as much use possible of already existing infrastructures, such as the high-speed railway and motorways. More importantly, the design made every effort to avoid affecting local natural resources (water flows, mountains, etc.) and to respect the biological calendars of protected animal species (otter, Montpellier snake, Mediterranean turtle, dragonfly, Montagu’s harrier).
Hydrological issues were monitored - both groundwater and surface water - to guarantee specific observation of the water resources in the Albera massif, and modern drilling techniques were used to cross the main rivers without affecting water flow or quality. In accordance with its commitment to respect flora and fauna habitats, INELFE recreated the essential space required by certain protected animal species whenever the route of the interconnection had an impact on their environment. For example, an artificial lake was created for amphibians. As part of the national plan of action to protect the Mediterranean turtle (Mauremys leprosa), scientific monitoring activity was undertaken to analyse their spawning ground. To do so, the turtles were fitted with GPS.
The public works on the platform for the northern end of the Montesquieu des Albères Tunnel generated a large volume of rubble, which was set aside for subsequent rehabilitation of a local valley. The topsoil extracted during construction of the Santa Llogaia converter station was used to restore the embankments on both sides at the southern end of the tunnel. The material left over from drilling the tunnel was recycled for the A-9 motorway extension in France.
A project that created local jobs
INELFE prioritised the use of local companies for the ancillary works associated with the project. It collaborated with the services of the French government in order to respect this commitment. More than 100 jobs were created in southern France thanks to the over 20 million euros allocated to the small companies associated with the project. A similar level of job creation is estimated in Spain. Furthermore, INELFE asked suppliers to consider groups with labour insertion difficulties when subcontracting out the work. On the Spanish side, for example, all the ancillary installations inside the tunnel were awarded to companies that work with associations for the disabled.
As regards social issues, INELFE maintained its commitment to the region by both working with major cultural and sports events and by creating direct and indirect jobs in Roussillon and Empordà throughout the course of the project.
These cultural and social efforts led to direct and ongoing collaboration with the Pau Casals de Prada Music Festival, the Peralada Festival, the Figueres Acoustic Festival, the Girona High Season Festival, the Archipel Theatre in Perpignan and the USAP Rugby Club School.
Music and theatre
INELFE sponsored the Castell de Peralada International Music Festival, a prestigious opera, dance and classical music event that takes place in the summer and is highly popular in Catalan society. It also collaborated with the Acoustic Festival, which takes place in Figueres in the last week of August and has become a benchmark pop-rock music festival.
It also sponsored the Pablo Casals Festival, an event set up by the famous Catalan celloist in 1950 and aimed at promoting new talent and spreading masterpieces and lesser-known compositions from classical and contemporary chamber music. Since the Pablo Casals International Cello Competition was set up in 2005, over 500 composers from around the world have presented unpublished works written for trio or sextet.
INELFE also worked with the High Season Theatre Festival, which takes place in Gerona in the autumn and is considered as one of the best theatre festivals in Europe, with the Archipel Theatre in Perpignan and with the “Jeudis” in Perpignan, an artistic, musical and entertainment celebration for adults and children that floods the streets of this city every Thursday in July and August.
Through its sponsorship of the USAP Association (Union Sportive des Arlequins Perpignanais), INELFE demonstrated its wish to foster the development of talent among young athletes. The INELFE slogan - “Energy for the Future” - connects very well with the spirit of this association, which has helped several disabled youngsters make their dreams come true by enjoying a training session on the field with their favourite athletes.