The new M3 Cityring line of the Copenhagen Metro is a game changer
Copenhagen (CNN) – In Copenhagen, traffic is usually caused by the two-wheeled means of transport – the bicycle.
Since bicycles were imported to Denmark from France in 1869, they have become the main means of transport in the Scandinavian city. In the 1920s it was not unusual to see both the working class and high society pedaling the streets. But with the opening of the new M3 Cityring metro line, commuters have a new way to get around.
Although the Copenhagen metro has always been quite efficient, many neighborhoods lacked stations and, therefore, accessibility.
The circular line has 17 new stops, almost doubling the number of existing stations.
BY MARIE ODGAARD / AFP via Getty Images
Cityring, a 15.5-kilometer (about 9.63-mile) circular line with 17 new stops – which nearly doubles the number of existing stations – now connects suburban neighborhoods that radiate away from the city center. Residents won’t need to rely on their bikes to get around, an advantage especially during Copenhagen’s hygge winters.
The impetus for the project was twofold, according to Henrik Ploughmann Olsen, CEO of Copenhagen Metro. “First of all, it was about improving public transport, making it more efficient and of better quality,” he said. “But it was also about developing the city in other areas outside the city center.”
Courtesy of the Copenhagen Metro
Public squares were built, with 150 benches and 800 trees, around 17 new stations were installed. The squares will not only allow access to the metro, but will hopefully encourage more commerce and housing.
“We see that it attracts shops, but also offices and service-oriented businesses,” said Olsen.
Building the line was not without its challenges.
Olsen acknowledged that the eight years of construction hampered traffic and generally disrupted people’s daily lives. “We’ve had the machinery right outside people’s windows for quite a number of years,” she said.
Glass and light are key elements of the design and the stations have been designed to blend in with their surroundings.
Reginaldo underground / sales company
Technical problems also challenged the tunnel designers. They had to build around older structures with shaky foundations, such as the historic Frederik Church, aka Marble Church, at Marmorkirken Station.
Groundwater control was also key during construction.
“Many houses in the inner part of the old town are actually built on wooden poles from the 17th or 18th century,” explained Olsen, “If you remove the groundwater from those mounds, they will rot.”
Additionally, the builders had to cleverly maneuver around existing subway tunnels, but Olsen proudly notes that the expansion was completed without causing any shutdowns to the current system.
Brilliant, new tracks
The line itself is a thing of beauty; Sleek and shimmering like a seal glistening in the water, this sleek 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 few cities around the world, including New York, Chicago and Melbourne, and a full line rotation 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 the older stations, all new stops have two lifts instead of one, and the inclination of the stairs has been reduced to make up and down flights less tiring. For today’s iTouch culture, automatic ticket screens provide riders with route information and maps.
Not only easy to drive, Cityring stations are pleasing to the eye.
Glass and light are key elements of the design and the stations have been designed to blend in with their surroundings. At Frederiksberg Allé station, for example, the green interior color scheme is a passage to the open-air park that welcomes motorcyclists when they reach street level.
Cleanliness and efficiency are two cornerstones of the metro system: revenue generated from ticket sales is reinvested in maintenance, and quarterly passenger surveys provide insight to metro operators on what works, what doesn’t and where they need to go.
Suitable for bicycles
The Cityring does not want to compete with bicycles, but rather integrate into existing transport infrastructure. “Metro actually supports the idea of having bicycles as a means of transport for the last mile or first mile, so you could use it in combination,” Olsen said.
Bicycles are allowed on the subway during off-peak hours, and the cellars at each station provide storage for two-wheeled vehicles when not in use. Screens at exit points announce the departures of nearby buses and trains to facilitate connections.
This brilliant new railway line is conductorless and runs automatically.
Reginaldo underground / sales company
While these features excited residents about the new system, Olsen believes that “the most important thing is that you don’t have to look up the time,” he said. “You can go through the station and there will be a train right after.” For him, the freedom from the shackles of a schedule exemplifies the ease of use of the subway.
The new M3 line – and the extension of the metro in general – not only serves the city internally, but allows Copenhagen to compete internationally. Citing Hamburg, Germany, and Stockholm, Sweden as nearby rivals, Olsen hopes to attract both business and tourists to Copenhagen through the opportunities offered by the metro.
With the opening of M3 Cityring, passenger numbers are expected to increase from 65 million to 122 million by 2020 and two extensions of the existing M4 line are expected to open in the next five years.
While the projections are ambitious, Olsen’s definition of success is more modest.
“The fewer people have to think about us, the better,” he said. “So if you can just rely on us and don’t have to think a lot about using the metro, because it’s easy to use and you don’t have to plan your trip, then I guess we’re a hit.”