A green transportation policy combined with years of underinvestment is spurring a boom in Denmark's railroad infrastructure. Among projects steaming ahead is a $3-billion installation of new signaling technology across the Scandinavian nation's 2,300-kilometer network.

NWCcop.tif Major rail projects, including on Copenhagen’s system, are under way.
Photo: Peter Reina
Major rail projects, including on Copenhagen’s system, are under way.

Denmark early last year launched its so-called Green Transportation Policy through 2020. With the government shifting investments from roads to rail, "2009 was a historic year for us," says Palle Beck Thomsen, managing director for Atkins Danmark A/S, the country's largest railroad design firm. Intensifying emphasis on rail is doubling the sector's consultancy business to around $60 million a year, he adds.

Two-thirds of the resulting capital spending is aimed at heavy rail projects. To ensure progress, the government has set five-year budgets extending to 10 years for larger rail-work projects, says Thomsen.

Heavy rail investments in the next decade will total $10.5 billion, including $1.6 billion for a new 60-km line between Copenhagen and Ringsted, which recently secured parliamentary approval. Copenhagen's new $2.4-billion Cityringen metro line and a handful of light-rail projects are included. Denmark also is leading development of the 19-km Fehmarnbelt fixed link with Germany.

Work to modernize train management systems is "the biggest single signaling investment in Europe, probably the world," says Morten Søndergaard, program director at Banedanmark, which owns the nation's railroad infrastructure. "We are taking a greenfield approach to a brownfield railway."

The European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) will replace automatic train controls, radios, on-board equipment and control centers. With signals and other visible hardware eliminated by the project, "it will be a very different railway to look at," says Eva Rindom, Atkins’ head of rail.

Denmark took signaling deficiencies seriously after "a meltdown on performance," in 2005, says Søndergaard. "Everyone pointed a finger at this organization." He attributes half of all train delays to inadequate investment in signaling.

Banedanmark is procuring signaling work on the mainline system, the F-bane, in two contracts. Each successful consortium will have an option to take over the other's contract in case a project runs into problems, says Søndergaard. One line in each contract will be completed early as a prototype.

Banedanmark started "very open dialogue" with potential suppliers about the outputs and structure of the contracts about 18 months ago, says Rindom. "Now it's more formal."

Six groups prequalified for the F-bane contracts, which will be awarded by late next year. "We are working very hard to get the tender material out by summer," Rindom adds. Bids for work on the smaller networks of the regional S-bane are due early this August from five teams.

In setting up the ERTMS project management strategy, Søndergaard says he drew on U.K. experience with Heathrow Airport's Terminal Five and other major developments. Contracts will be essentially fixed price but will include "all the elements of partnering," along with some risk-sharing, he says.

Banedanmark also is partnering with the design team it hired last September. Led by locally-based Rambøll Group and Atkins, the team also includes Pasadena, Calif.-based Parsons Corp. and Switzerland's Emch & Berger A.G., Berne. "This is the largest consultancy contract ever in Denmark," claims Rindom.

ERTMS is in operation on much smaller scales in a few countries, but "this is not a development project," says Søndergaard. "We are buying mature technologies." Nevertheless, major uncertainties remain-for instance, the lack of common ERTM operating standards across Europe.

Banedanmark is contributing to negotiations with the European Union, which should provide a standard by 2015, adds Søndergaard. "Stuff like this doesn't happen itself till you have a project to work on."

In Copenhagen, Banedanmark is halfway through a $130-million project to boost capacity in the main terminaal, due for completion in 2012. Further, the metro project company...