Best Manager, 2022: Hélène Valenzuela, head of Ouigo Spain

Hélène is CEO of Ouigo Spain and has extensive international experience in rail transport. She has served as CEO and COO in rail companies operating on high-speed networks and worked for the French rail infrastructure operator. In 2022, she won the European Talent in Mobility Award in the ‘Best Manager’ category. Here’s what she has to say about the award:

“I was very honoured to have won the European mobility ‘Best Manager 2022’ award. The award helped show my teams the extent to which our work to expand long-distance mobility is recognised, and more especially the fact that it’s a collective achievement.

We’re very proud of our ongoing work to make high-speed rail more accessible in Spain, enabling more customers to travel. Recognition by a body like EuMo encourages us all to continue to improve!”

Find out more about the presentation of the winner in 2022

Hélène Valenzuela is the CEO of Ouigo Spain, an SNCF Voyageurs startup revolutionising the high-speed rail market in Spain. In 2021, just as the health state of emergency was lifted in Spain, Ouigo trains travelling at 300km/h began running on the Madrid-Barcelona route. It had taken less than two years for the project to become a reality. Taken up in record time, the challenge drew on outstanding mobilisation on the part of over 250 contributors whose expertise facilitated the creation of an innovative offering under the guidance of Hélène Valenzuela. Today, just one year on, 2 million passengers have used Ouigo, making high-speed rail travel accessible to all whilst remaining environmentally-friendly; each Ouigo is the equivalent of six flights between Madrid and Barcelona. Hélène Valenzuela often says that she spent the previous 25 years preparing for this epic. After graduating from a leading business school, she began her career in the rail industry as station manager at Hendaye before taking on several international missions and then moving to head up the South-East third of SNCF Réseau, with over 11,000 people dedicated to infrastructure maintenance and traffic management. Her expertise and taste for innovation and teamwork have proved vital. No shortage of innovation was required to adjust production methods, digitise various operational stages, and create the sales system. Her ability to leverage teamwork has also proved crucial, allowing priorities to be reassessed together in view of the challenges facing Spain’s first non-national rail operator. The adventure continues, with new developments on the horizon!