The Barcelona Metro will soon begin to carry out an inventory of its network to detect the presence of asbestos in order to prepare a plan for its removal. After a tendering process, a specialized company will be responsible first for carrying out this diagnosis, “to determine the situation, quantity, type, and condition of all of the material that contains asbestos, mainly in the form of fiber cement”, as described in the terms and conditions.
This diagnosis will be carried out throughout the entire metro network: on different lines, tunnels, stations, workshops, depots, storage areas, and electrical substations.
The inventory will be carried out on the entire network, from stations and tunnels to workshops and depots.
The successful bidder, Inse Rail, a company dedicated to specialized engineering and consulting services for the railway sector, is expected to begin the work “in a matter of days” and “quite possibly” during this month of March, pending the final administrative procedures, according to sources from Transports Metropolitans de Barcelona (TMB).
The terms and conditions specify that the objective is to obtain an inventory and diagnosis of the materials with asbestos fibers and asbestos derivatives “visible in the installations and dependencies of the metro, and estimate the possible existence of hidden asbestos as much as possible”.
The tasks to be carried out include taking measurements, creation and management of a database, inspection work and visual location, as well as the preparation of a budget with an estimated cost to replace the elements that contain fiber cement.
This inventory must be completed within no more than 18 months following the contract award, and the company responsible will submit a “detailed plan that identifies the tasks to be carried out, clearly indicating the delivery date of the inventory to metro, respecting two final months for possible clarifications or modifications of the document”. The contract was awarded at the end of the year for a total of 319,070.95 euros.
TMB affirms that “there are no components that contain asbestos in the trains that are in service”.
On the other hand, according to TMB, “an inspection of the presence of asbestos in the metro installations was carried out in previous years”, and based on this, it is known that the presence of this material is “principally in the form of fiber cement sheets used as cover in the construction of dependencies, a material that does not release fibers if it is not handled, and therefore does not pose a danger to workers and users”, says the company.
The same sources added that “there are no components that contain asbestos in the trains that are in service”. TMB added that “years ago”, construction elements that contain asbestos were removed in a “safe and controlled manner”, “for example, as part of the renovation work of the dependencies”.
Now with this inventory, the metro operator is seeking “to make the possible list of elements that contain asbestos as exhaustive as possible” in order to “plan its removal, following an order of priorities, although there is no legal obligation to carry out this removal”, concluded the company.
The concentration of asbestos fibers, a material whose marketing and use was prohibited in Spain in 2002, in the air has harmful effects on health, and for many years it was used in prefabricated products in different sectors, such as construction, and for this reason the material is still present today.
The case of the Madrid metro
The recent news that a former worker of Metro de Madrid had developed lung cancer due to prolonged exposure to asbestos resulted in the intervention of the prosecutor’s office. This week, it was announced that the Provincial Prosecutor’s Office of Madrid has initiated criminal investigation procedures as a result of the document sent by the Department of Labor Inspection of Madrid in response to the case.
This document indicated that Metro de Madrid had not adopted sufficient measures to prevent the exposure of its maintenance workers to the presence of asbestos in some of the materials in the network.
The case came to light several weeks ago after it was made public that a former worker had developed lung cancer due to prolonged exposure to asbestos in his work place, and that the Social Security Administration had recognized it as an “occupational disease”. Following the news, the unions of the Madrid metro have reported that there may be more labor cases on these same grounds.