Copenhagen Metro’s new M3 Cityring line is a game-changer

Copenhagen (CNN) – In Copenhagen, traffic is usually caused by two-wheeled transport: the bicycle.

Ever since bicycles were imported to Denmark from France in 1869, they have become the most important mode of transport in the Scandinavian city. In the 1920s, it was not uncommon to see both the working class and the high society trampling through the streets. But with the opening of the Metro’s new M3 Cityring line, commuters have a new way of getting around.

While Copenhagen Metro has always been quite efficient, many neighborhoods lacked stations and thus accessibility.

In addition, a growing population of about 10,000 new residents a year taxes the buses and trains that are already in circulation. In a city of 650,000 people, about 200,000 commute daily by subway, sometimes on a bicycle during their journey.

Greater availability

The circular line has 17 new stops, which is almost a doubling of the number of existing stations.

The circular line has 17 new stops, which is almost a doubling of the number of existing stations.

DA MARIE ODGAARD ​​/ AFP via Getty Images

Cityring, a 15.5-kilometer (approximately 9.63-mile) circular line with 17 new stops – nearly doubling the number of existing stations – now connects remote neighborhoods that radiate far from the city center. Residents do not have to rely on their bikes to get around, a blessing especially during Copenhagen’s cozy-inducing winters.

The driving force for the project was twofold, says Henrik Ploughmann Olsen, CEO of Copenhagen Metro. “First and foremost, it was a matter of improving public transport, making it more efficient and of better quality,” he said. “But it was also about urban development in other areas outside the city center.”

With permission from Copenhagen Metro

Public spaces were built, with 150 benches and 800 trees, were installed around the 17 new stations. The spaces not only provide access to the metro, but will hopefully encourage more trade and housing.

“We see that it attracts stores, but also offices and service-oriented companies,” Olsen said.

Building the line was not without challenges.

Olsen acknowledged that the eight years of construction hampered traffic and generally disrupted people’s daily lives. “We had the machinery right outside people’s windows for a pretty significant number of years,” he said.

Glass and light are central design elements, and the stations are designed to integrate with their surroundings.

Glass and light are central design elements, and the stations are designed to integrate with their surroundings.

Reginaldo Sales / Metro Company

Technical problems also challenged tunnel designers. They were to build around older buildings with shaky foundations, such as the historic Frederik’s Church, aka the Marble Church, at the Marble Church’s station.

Control of the groundwater was also imperative during the construction.

“Many of the houses in the inner part of the old town are actually founded on wooden piles from the 17th or 18th century,” Olsen explained, “if you remove the groundwater from the piles, they rot.”

In addition, builders had to deftly maneuver around existing Metro tunnels – but Olsen proudly notes that the expansion was completed without causing any shutdown of the current system.

Shiny, new rails

The new M3 line gives Copenhagen the opportunity to compete internationally.

The new M3 line gives Copenhagen the opportunity to compete internationally.

Reginaldo Sales / Metro Company

The line itself is a thing of beauty; slim and shiny like a seal floating through 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 handful of cities worldwide, including New York City, Chicago and Melbourne – and a full rotation around the line takes 24 minutes. The average speed is about 40 kilometers per hour (about 25 miles per hour), but when a train reaches its top speed, it can sail at 90 kilometers per hour (55 miles per hour).

Unlike older stations, all the new stops are equipped with two elevators instead of one, and the slope of the stairs was reduced to make it less stressful to go up and down. For today’s iTouch culture, screens at ticket machines provide riders with route information and maps.

Not just easy on the ride, Cityring stations are easy on the eyes.

Glass and light are key design elements, and the stations were designed to integrate with their surroundings. At Frederiksberg Allé station, for example, the green interior color is part of the outdoor park that welcomes riders when they reach street level.

Cleanliness and efficiency are two principles in the metro system. Revenue from ticket sales is reinvested in maintenance, and quarterly surveys of passengers provide metro operators with guidance on what works, what does not, and where to direct the funds.

Bicycle friendly

Cityringen does not want to compete with bicycles, but instead integrate into existing transport infrastructure. “Metro actually supports the idea that bikes are either last mile or first mile mode of transportation so you can use it in combination,” Olsen said.

Bicycles are allowed on the Metro during non-rush hour, and basements at each station provide storage for the two-wheeled vehicles when not in use. Exit screens advertise nearby bus and train departures for easy connections.

This shiny new railway line is leaderless and runs automatically.

This shiny new railway line is leaderless and runs automatically.

Reginaldo Sales / Metro Company

Although these features make residents excited about the new system, Olsen believes that “the most important thing is that you do not have to look up the schedule,” he said. “You can just walk through the station and there’s a train coming right after.” For him, freedom from a schedule chain is an example of how easy it is to use the subway.

The new M3 line – and the expansion of the Metro in general – not only services the city internally, but gives Copenhagen the opportunity to compete internationally. Referring to Hamburg, Germany and Stockholm, Sweden as nearby rivals, Olsen hopes to attract both businesses and tourists to Copenhagen via opportunities offered by Metro.

With the opening of the M3 Cityring, passenger numbers are expected to increase from 65 million to 122 million by 2020, and two extensions to the existing M4 line will open over the next five years.

While 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 trust us and not have to think so much about using the Metro because it’s easy to use and you do not have to plan your trip, then I think we’re a success.”

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