High Speed Rail in Denmark

With all the controversy in the UK on whether or not to build HS2, it is interesting to draw comparisons with other countries that have yet to construct high-speed lines and see how they have fared with the planning process and the general approach to national acceptance. Writes Clive Kessell

One such country is Denmark. There are no true high-speed lines in Scandinavia, partly due to the topography and partly because of population density. However, trading with the rest of Europe is increasingly important and much of this traffic must flow southwards from Sweden and Norway, via Copenhagen in Denmark, and on into Germany. As such, the classic lines that carry this traffic are congested and capacity constraints are becoming a big problem. The choice, similar to that in the UK, has been whether to upgrade existing lines or build from new.

The chosen solution was a mixture of both. Between Copenhagen and Ringsted, a town some 60km to the south west of the capital, it became obvious that a new line would be required. The drivers for this were not only the need to increase network capacity but also to facilitate the connection of some sizeable towns, such as Odense, Hasler, Køgeand Hårler, to Copenhagen within a ‘one hour target’. Speeding up the commuter network is seen as good for the business prospects of the capital as well as promoting modal shift in the travelling habits of the Danish population, which like the UK is growing.

Planning the new line

The Danes were anxious to avoid having to develop any new technology so the broad order specification for the engineering aspects of the high speed line was to call for exactly the same as the latest lines already approved and in operation in other European countries. As a starting point, that was the easy bit. But how would the precise route be decided and what would be the reaction of the general public to the building of the line, particularly those with homes and businesses that were likely to be directly affected?

Photo: Jens Hasse / Chili photo.

Photo: Jens Hasse / Chili photo.

Increasing capacity between Copenhagen and Ringsted had been thought about since 1993 and a Planning Act had been passed in 1997 for three possible solutions. It took until 2007 to decide the single solution of building a high speed line and a further three years until 2010 for the project to reach the stage where it could be considered to be underway.

The authorities are remarkably reticent about the public relations exercise that took place although questioning did reveal the existence of anti project lobbying during the consultation period. This seems to have been more at a tactical rather than strategic level as the benefits of the line to the wider economy and specifically for Copenhagen and its satellite towns appear to have been accepted by the vast majority of people.

Getting the route decided proved to be less controversial, the main concept being to parallel the existing motorways E20, E47 and E55 to Ringsted. This route is quite different from the existing rail line, which goes via Roskilde, and instead passes close to the city of Køge where a new north station will be provided. A short length of existing railway is to be adapted near to Ringsted and, to reach the centre of Copenhagen, an additional two tracks are to be provided from the suburban station of Ny Ellebjerg to the main city terminus. In retrospect the planning process took many years to complete and has not been so very different to what transpired for HS1.

Engineering aspects

As has been said, the line is being constructed and equipped in line with emerging European high speed rail practice. Infrastructure systems and trains will be akin to buying something out of a catalogue. This will include:

    • A line speed of 250kph but reducing to 200 and 150kph in the Copenhagen suburbs;
    • ERTMS Level 2 signalling which will be integrated with the national roll out of this technology across all Danish lines (issue 109 – November 2013);
    • Electrification to the 25-0-25kV system using auto transformers;
    • Telecommunications based around resilient fibre optic rings with IP networking;
    • Trains to be supplied as a standard product ‘out of the box’ from one of the established manufacturers.

Civil engineering aspects cannot, of course, treated in the same manner as every railway has to be built to a unique route.

However, even here the construction of bridges and tunnels follow a standardised civil engineering practice. The 60km line will have 5 tunnels totalling 2,000 metres and 87 bridges. 200 buildings will need to be demolished and 1,200 others will be affected in some way by the line’s construction.

900 utility services such as power lines and gas pipes will need to be relocated. Interestingly, many bridges were built in advance of the final project go-ahead as part of a government initiative to stimulate the economy.

Underway

The tendering phase for all this took place in 2012 with contracts being let shortly afterwards. Construction began in 2013 and should be complete by 2016. The programme for testing allows two years, 2016/7, and the commencement of services is planned for 2018.

There are three basic levels of organisation: i) strategic, represented by the project director’s team; ii) tactical, primarily concerned with day to day project management and iii) operational, involving all aspects of the supply base. Economy of scale is aimed to be achieved by awarding geographically separated contracts, thus allowing work to take place simultaneously at several sites.

The contract structure is based around design and build, thus eliminating the need for consultants during the design phase. Only pre-bid work has needed the employment of consultants.

Much emphasis has been put on both defining risk and agreeing where this should be allocated. The list of risks is quite long but, in the main, the client is responsible for interfaces, detailed design, basic material provision, framework conditions, most utility replacements, archaeology and safety procedures. The contractor, on the other hand, looks after time schedules, meeting milestones, construction methods, build ability, construction works and safety at construction sites.

The cost for the line was originally estimated at 10.4 billion Danish krone, about €1.2 billion. Of this, 8 billion krone was seen as the ‘activity’ budget with another 2 billion krone put by as a reserve from both the company budget and from the Government Department responsible for Transport. It is admitted that the costs are expected to rise, mainly to take account of changes to design requirements and contract variations, and the final cost is now reckoned to be €1.8 billion.

Comparisons

When trying to draw compaImage5risons with the UK, there are both similarities and differences. The need for the high speed line mirrors many of the arguments being put forward for building HS2: capacity constraints on the existing network, impracticality of upgrading existing lines, anticipated growth of traffic generally and avoidance of disruption on other lines if these were to be expanded. with the environment already disturbed both visually and by noise, adding a little more of the same is seen as no big deal. Secondly the construction timescale is much quicker. Certainly the line is much shorter than the proposals for HS2 but distance should not be that much of a factor if geographically separated contracts are to be used.

Collaboration between suppliers to deliver an integrated proven package has yet to be fully tested but the right conditions seem to have been negotiated. Whatever else, the management of HS2 will watch the Danish project carefully to see if reality matches the plans and to learn from the emerging experiences, both good and bad.

Denmark has the additional need to create feeder route to other parts of Europe as part of an international freight corridor. The high speed line will free up paths on the existing lines for this freight traffic. The decision- making process seems to have been equally protracted, although dealing with the Nimby factor appears to have been handled with comparative ease.

The differences are primarily twofold. Firstly determining the line of route was made much easier by deciding to parallel a motorway. Perhaps this was the pragmatic solution since, with the environment already disturbed both visually and by noise, adding a little more of the same is seen as no big deal. Secondly the construction timescale is much quicker. Certainly the line is much shorter than the proposals for HS2 but distance should not be that much of a factor if geographically separated contracts are to be used.

Collaboration between suppliers to deliver an integrated proven package has yet to be fully tested but the right conditions seem to have been negotiated. Whatever else, the management of HS2 will watch the Danish project carefully to see if reality matches the plans and to learn from the emerging experiences, both good and bad.

One Response to "High Speed Rail in Denmark"

  1. Jake says:

    Look at the U.S. high speed program in the late 1990s. They had a similar predicament. Take the rolling stock for example when Amtrak was looking at what type of train to make for the line they looked at a tilting train (X2000) for use on upgraded networks and a “straight line speed train” for a new purpose built high speed route (ICE 1). Italy is another good example. Most of their high speed lines run parallel or close to original mainlines which currently run regional services. In the early era of high speed rail in Italy the first generation pendolinos ran on these routes that were minority upgraded for higher speed running. Also in Italy in the approach to urban areas or for rerouting purposes HST will use these mainlines. Another example of this situation in Italy is the Frecciargento service. It will blast along on 300kmh routes at 250kmh from city center to city center then merge off and use its tilting system at a maximum of 220kmh along traditional routes on the same journey. Take the Frecciargento from Rome to Venice. In the UK currently there is that same idea of upgraded routes as well on the ECML line. It is not exactly what you are describing in the article but closer and not in the best use but worth mentioning still. The Class 91 are aloud from Peterborugh to York in certain sections to hit 140mph rather than 115-125mph.

    Reply

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