• Enrique Fernández González tributes

    Tributes have been received at TunnelTalk following the announcement that Enrique González died on 23 March 2019 as the result of a tragic road accident.

    See the tributes at the bottom of this article page and on Feedback and add your tributes via the Feedback service.

Obituary 28 Mar 2019

Enrique Fernández González 1958-2019

There is deep loss and emptiness at many job sites and project offices around the world and among colleagues and friends at the shock news that Enrique González of Spanish contractor Dragados has lost his life after being knocked down by a truck during a bicycle road race on Saturday 23 March near his home and close to the city of Madrid. He died at the scene of the accident. Following a funeral service on Wednesday, his body was taken by his wife and young family for burial in his hometown of Oviedo. Enrique will be missed by so many for his energy, his knowledge, his personal integrity and his professional ‘we-will-succeed’ attitude.

Enrique González 1958-2019 " style="width: 200px;
Enrique González 1958-2019

As a professional civil engineer dedicated to the world of tunnelling, González was known world wide either for leading bids for major projects for Dragados or assisting the work on job sites as the head of the tunnelling department of the Spanish contractor. He was among the young generation of engineers who spearheaded the charge by Spanish contractors onto the international tunnel excavation stage. The success of Dragados and its joint venture partners in winning high profile projects and succeeding, sometimes against all the odds, is a testament in large part to the expertise, knowledge and personability of Enrique. He knew his industry, could build, inspire and support a team, and could manage the high level negotiations.

In recent times, González was celebrating with his team new high-level successes in the USA, the UK and was visiting major Dragados tunnelling projects in Canada the week before the tragic accident. The tour in Canada took him to the Eastern Section contract of the Eglinton Crosstown Metro project in Toronto where Dragados is in JV with Aecon. From there it was to Ottawa to visit the team working on the Confederation Line for the Ottawa Subway where roadheader excavation of running tunnels and underground stations is being finalised and M&E installations are progressing. In Montreal the visit was to the metro works, which include a 5km central section running beneath the city centre.

In the USA, the newest award of contract for González and his Dragados tunnelling team was for the alternative TBM drive to create the parallel road carriageway under the Chesapeake Bay shipping channels for the Hampton Roads highway bridge/tunnel crossing. This has come fast on the heels of the similar Thimble Shoals project where Dragodos led the process to convince the client to select a TBM drive over a second immersed tube for the Chesapeake Bay crossing, a model repeated at Hampton Roads. A 12.8m diameter Herrenknecht EPBM has been procured for the project and is on site ready to complete the 1,740m long undersea drive.

Also in the USA in California, González was involved in the successful proposal by the Dragados to be selected for the 11.25km long x 5.5m i.d. TBM effluent conveyance tunnel in Los Angeles. In California, Dragados is also involved in JV in the construction of the first sections of the California High Speed Rail project through the Central Valley, a section that requires no tunnels but ahead of the northern and southern sections that will require up to 60km of mined and bored tunnelling through difficult and challenging geology.

Inspecting a TBM at a factory in Japan
Inspecting a TBM at a factory in Japan

Other projects in the United States have been the TBM running tunnels for the East Side Access railway project in New York City and most notably the SR99 Alaskan Way double deck highway tunnel under the streets of Seattle, a project that tested the skills and abilities of González and all his colleagues within the joint venture with Tutor Perini and in their communications with representatives of the client, the Washington State Department of Transportation, and with contract suppliers. Importantly among them was Hitachi of Japan which delivered the world-record 17.48m diameter EBP TBM that experienced major technical problems during its drive. It is a credit to the Dragados/Tutor Perini team and their WSDOT colleagues that the contract survived the immediate difficulties, making decisions to rescue and repair the stricken machine, keep the contract alive and persevering through all the lows to bring the TBM and its drive to a successful final breakthrough in April 2018.

In the UK, the latest success is award to Dragados, in joint venture with Mace, as the preferred bidder for construction of the £1.3 billion Euston Station terminus for the High Speed Rail 2 (HS2) in London and its underground connections to the London Underground lines and to the surface mainline railway station. This follows successful completion of more than 9km of twin tube running tunnels for the Crossrail project in London and in JV with Sisk. Four Herrenknecht EPBMs were used on the contract and it was a Dragados/Sisk TBM that achieved the last TBM breakthrough on the project in May 2015. Also in London, Dragados is working on the Bank Station upgrade for London Underground, recently completing a major section of SCL work around the existing operating station to create a new station platform tunnel and increase the ingress and egress connection from the underground station to the street above.

In Australia, Dragados is working in joint venture with CPB Contractors and Samsung on the WestConnex M5 where excavation of 9km of twin three- and four-lane carriageway tunnels was recently completed and M&E equipment is being installed to create a significant part of the underground bypass of the Sydney CBD (centre business district). The M5 contract followed on in Sydney for Dradagos from its work with Thiess/John Holland for excavation and construction of the 15km of twin running tunnels for the Sydney Metro North West rail link. Four 7m diameter NFM double shield TBMs contributed to steady progress rates that completed 30km of segmentally lined tunnels across the 16 months of TBM operations.

Of many projects in Spain, González counted among them on his protfolio the Calle 30 highway tunnels around Madrid early 2000s, using a 15m diameter Mistubishi EPBM, and the Guadarrama high speed rail bored tunnel when a set of four TBMs, two from Herrenknecht and two from Wirth (now CREG), and with one of each operating from each twin tube portal towards their opposite numbers. This provided a special opportunity to compare the operations of TBMs from different manufacturers on the same project and in the same ground conditions.

Through all these projects González had a personal and direct involvement either as a Dragados representative on the JVs or as the tunnelling adviser within the Dragados team. In addition to these active projects through his career, there have been the many, many, bids and proposals for contracts that did not come the way of the Dragados. There was also a great deal of time, knowledge and energy invested in projects that failed to persuade the client of the underground or TBM alternative to the given surface or elevated option. These include the tunnelled alternative to the LBJ highway in Dallas, Texas and the underground route through Tysons Corner on the Washington DC to Dulles Airport link for the WMATA metro system. Through all his project and team associations he established long lasting collaborations and friendships with fellow likeminded engineers.

Shani Wallis <em>TunnelTalk</em> visiting a road tunnel project in Spain in 1990s with González (right) and his colleague
Shani Wallis TunnelTalk visiting a road tunnel project in Spain in 1990s with González (right) and his colleague

All these efforts exemplify the passion and commitment González had to engineering, his career in tunnelling and to working with his partners and colleagues. Within the industry he worked closely with the engineers of Dr Sauer & Partners in the UK, USA and in Canada on its SCL/SEM/NATM contracts and with all or most of the main suppliers of TBMs including Wirth, Herrenknecht, NFM and those in Japan. In selecting a TBM and equipment supplier González was always looking for innovation and development to improve performance, increase safety and assure top quality of the finished product. In a recent telephone conversation with TunnelTalk, he explained that, in his opinion, and as a comparison with the aviation industry, “tunnelling is still in the age of the propeller engine. We have yet to get to the jet age and there is much that can be improved in the cycles of tunnel excavation.”

González began his professional career after graduating in mining engineering from the Oviedo University in Spain with honors in 1985 and joined Arthur Andersen Ltd in its operation of auditing coal mine operations. In 1988 he joined leading Spanish contractor Dragados, and spent the first 12 years involved in projects in Spain, France, Portugal and Thailand. In 2000 he was promoted to Technical Director of the Dragados Tunnelling Division and in July last year (2018), he became head of the Dragados engineering company gGravity.

Currently on its website, Dragados explains that it was awarded its first subway project in Spain in 1944 and began its push into the international underground construction industry in 1965. Since then it reports award of more than 530 underground projects in twenty countries on all five continents, today having constructed more than 1,480km of tunnels, shafts, galleries and stations through a variety of geological conditions, utilizing diverse methods and all types of construction technologies. This breaks down to underground works of 243km for roads; 254km for railways; 293km for metros; 555km for waterways and 135km for mine developments.

Shani Wallis, Editor and Publisher of TunnelTalk first met González on the Lam Ta Khong pumped storage hydro scheme in Thailand in 1998 and each has stayed in contact through their careers meeting on several jobs sites in the meantime and at numerous conferences and industry events. González was an international representative on the organising committee of the RETC (Rapid Excavation and Tunnel Conference) series in the United States and was a representative of Spain on the General Assembly of the International Tunnelling and Underground Space Association (ITA).

There is no doubt that González touched the careers and working lives of so many engineers and workers and professionals in the world of tunnelling and there will be great sadness at his very untimely and tragic death. Sincere condolences are extended to his work colleagues in Dragados and to his family.



Enrique Fernández González tributes

Tragic news.
Enrique was a well-known and always helpful colleague.

Jens Classen
Implenia Construction GmbH

What sad sad news.
He was a good friend since I met him at RETC Las Vegas in 2009.
A big loss for Dragados.
I will drink some good Spanish wine in his memory.

Dean Brox

Thank you for posting the Obituary for Enrique.
It was a perfect tribute and included his involvement with the CM009/CM019 contracts on the East Side Access and his instrumental contribution on the failed, but valiant, It's not over till it's under Tysons Tunnel effort together with Dr Sauer.

Pamela Moran
Schneider Moran Inc.

From Luis Miguel Viartola Laborda, gGravity
We feel very grateful for the Enrique’s obituary published in TunnelTalk.

Enrique was a very especial person for all his colleagues within gGravity and Dragados. Personally, I worked with him for more than 15 years. He was a close colleague and also a true friend, besides an exceptional engineer. But he was, mainly, a good man and a family man, and will be missed in many ways.

He was passionate, always positive, patient, and pragmatic in his work and had plenty of vision on every project he started. He had the ability to bring out the best in each person. His death has been a big loss for Dragados and gGravity, and I would want to think it is the same for the tunnelling industry.

From gGravity we will try to continue with his legacy, and Alejandro Sanz will take his role as Head of Tunneling Technical Department. Alejandro has been part of Enrique’s team for more than 12 years, and was the person chosen by him to continue the work after his retirement. Regretably this change arrived shockingly and much sooner than expected.

With best regards

Luis Miguel Viartola Laborda
gGRAVITY Engineering
USA Dragados

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