Copenhagen — In Copenhagen, traffic is usually caused by the two-wheeled means of transport: the bicycle.
Since bicycles were brought to Denmark from France in 1869, they have become the main means of transport in the Scandinavian city. In the 1920s, it was not uncommon to see both the working class and the upper class pedaling through the streets. But with the opening of the new M3 Cityring metro line, commuters have a new way of getting around.
While Copenhagen’s metro has always been quite efficient, many areas lacked stations, and therefore lack of accessibility.
Cityring, a 15.5 kilometer (about 9.63 mile) circular line with 17 new stops – which almost doubles the number of existing stations – now connects outlying neighborhoods that radiate away from the city centre. Residents won’t need to rely on their bikes to get around, a boon especially during Copenhagen’s hygge winters.
The impetus for the project was twofold, according to Henrik Plowmann Olsen, CEO of Copenhagen Metro. “It was first about improving public transport, making it more efficient and of better quality,” he said. “But it was also about the development of the city in other areas outside the city center.”
Public squares were built, with 150 benches and 800 trees, were installed around the 17 new stations. The plazas not only provide access to the metro, but will hopefully encourage more commerce and housing.
“You see it attracting retail but also office and service-oriented retail,” Olsen said.
The construction of the line was not without challenges.
Olsen acknowledged that the eight years of construction hampered traffic and generally disrupted people’s daily lives. “We’ve had the machines right outside people’s windows for quite a number of years,” he said.
Glass and light are key design elements, and the stations have been designed to blend into their surroundings.
Reginaldo Sales/Metro Company
Technical problems also tested tunnel designers. They had to build around older structures with flimsy foundations, like the historic Frederik’s Church, aka Marble Church, at Marmorkirken station.
Groundwater control was also imperative during construction.
“A lot of the houses in the inner part of the old downtown are actually founded on 17th or 18th century wooden pilings,” Olsen explained, “If you take the groundwater off those pilings, they’ll rot.”
Additionally, the builders had to deftly maneuver around the existing subway tunnels, but Olsen proudly notes that the extension was completed without causing the current system to shut down.
Shiny New Rails
The new M3 line allows Copenhagen to compete internationally.
Reginaldo Sales/Metro Company
The line itself is a thing of beauty; Sleek and shiny like a seal shimmering in the water, this shiny new railway line runs automatically without any conductors.
The system operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year – a rare service offered by only a small handful of cities worldwide, including New York, Chicago and Melbourne – and a full rotation around the line takes 24 minutes. The average speed is around 40 kilometers per hour (about 25 miles per hour), but when a train reaches its maximum speed, it can travel at 90 kilometers per hour (55 miles per hour ).
Unlike older stations, all new stops have two elevators instead of one, and the incline of the stairs has been reduced to make round-trip flights less taxing. For today’s iTouch culture, ticketing machine screens provide passengers with route information and maps.
Not only easy to drive, Cityring stations are fun to look at.
Glass and light are key design elements and the stations have been designed to blend into their surroundings. At Frederiksberg Allé station, for example, the green interior color scheme is a transition to the outdoor park that greets riders as they reach street level.
Cleanliness and efficiency are two principles of the Metro system. Revenue generated from ticket sales is plowed back into maintenance, and quarterly passenger surveys give subway operators insight into what’s working, what’s not, and where to direct funds.
Suitable for bicycles
The Cityring does not want to compete with bicycles, but rather to integrate into the existing transport infrastructure. “Metro actually supports the idea of bikes being the last mile or first mile mode of transportation, so you can use them in combination,” Olsen said.
Bicycles are permitted on the metro outside of rush hour, and lockers at each station provide storage for two-wheeled vehicles when not in use. Screens at exit points announce nearby bus and train departures to make connections easier.
This shiny new rail line is driverless and operates automatically.
Reginaldo Sales/Metro Company
While these features have residents excited about the new system, Olsen thinks “the most important thing is that you don’t have to look at schedules,” he said. “You can just go through the station and there will be a train right after.” For him, breaking free from the chains of a timetable illustrates the ease of using the metro.
The new M3 line – and metro expansion in general – not only serves the city internally, but enables Copenhagen to compete internationally. Citing Hamburg, Germany, and Stockholm, Sweden, as close rivals, Olsen hopes to attract both businesses and tourists to Copenhagen through the opportunities offered by the metro.
With the opening of the M3 Cityring, ridership is expected to increase from 65 million to 122 million by 2020, and two extensions to the existing M4 line are expected to open over the next five years.
While the projections are ambitious, Olsen’s definition of success is more modest.
“The less people have to think about us, the better,” he said. “So if you can just rely on us and you don’t have to worry about using the metro, because it’s easy to use and you don’t have to plan your trip, then I guess that we are a success.”