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

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

Ever since bicycles were brought to Denmark from France in 1869, they have been the main mode of transport in the Scandinavian city. In the 1920s, it was not unusual for both the working class and high society to pedal through the streets. But with the opening of the new M3 Cityring metro line, passengers have a new way to travel.

While Copenhagen’s metro has always been fairly efficient, many areas lacked stations and thus accessibility.

In addition, a growing population of about 10,000 new residents per year taxes buses and trains already in circulation. In a city of 650,000 people, about 200,000 commute daily by subway, sometimes by bicycle.

Great accessibility

The Circle Line has 17 new stops, nearly double the number of existing stations.

The Circle Line has 17 new stops, nearly double the number of existing stations.

DA MARIE ODGAARD/AFP via Getty Images

Cityring, a 15.5 km (approximately 9.63 miles) loop line with 17 new stops, nearly doubling the number of existing stations, now connects outlying areas that radiate far from the city centre. Residents won’t need to rely on their bikes to get around, which is a boon, especially during hygge winters in Copenhagen.

According to Henrik Plafmann Olsen, CEO of the Copenhagen Metro, the project had a double impetus. “First of all, it was about improving public transport, about making it more efficient and of high quality,” he said. “But it was also about the development of the city in other areas outside the city center.”

Provided by Copenhagen Metro

Public squares with 150 benches and 800 trees were built around the 17 new stations. The plazas will not only provide access to the metro, but will hopefully stimulate the growth of commerce and housing.

“We see it attracting stores as well as service-oriented offices and businesses,” Olsen said.

The construction of the line was not without problems.

Olsen acknowledged that eight years of construction had impeded traffic and generally disrupted people’s daily lives. “We’ve had equipment right under people’s windows for quite a significant number of years,” he said.

Glass and light are key design elements, and the stations are designed to integrate with the environment.

Glass and light are key design elements, and the stations are designed to integrate with the environment.

Reginaldo Sales / Metro Company

Technical problems also caused difficulties for the tunnel designers. They had to build around old structures with shaky foundations, such as the historic Frederik’s Church, also known as the Marble Church, at Marmorkirken station.

Groundwater control was also required during construction.

“A lot of the houses in the inner part of the old city center are actually based on 17th or 18th century wooden piles,” Olsen explained, “if you remove groundwater from those piles, they will rot.”

In addition, the builders had to deftly maneuver around the existing subway tunnels, but Olsen is proud to note that the expansion was completed without any outages to the existing system.

Shiny, new rails

The new M3 line allows Copenhagen to compete internationally.

The new M3 line allows Copenhagen to compete internationally.

Reginaldo Sales / Metro Company

The line itself is a beautiful thing; Smooth and shiny as a seal gliding through the water, this shiny new rail 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 around the world, including New York, Chicago and Melbourne – and takes 24 minutes to complete a circuit around the line. The average speed is about 40 kilometers per hour (approximately 25 miles per hour), but when the train reaches its maximum speed, it can travel at a speed of 90 kilometers per hour (55 miles per hour).

Unlike older stations, all new stops have two elevators instead of one, and the slope of the stairs has been reduced to make getting up and down less tiring. For today’s iTouch culture, ticket machine screens provide passengers with route information and maps.

Cityring stations are not only convenient to travel, but also pleasing to the eye.

Glass and light are key design elements, and the stations are designed to integrate with their surroundings. For example, at Frederiksberg Allé station, the interior’s green color scheme is a transition to an open park that greets riders when they reach street level.

Purity and efficiency are the two principles of the Metro system. Revenue generated from ticket sales is reinvested in maintenance, and quarterly passenger surveys provide metro operators with information about what works and what doesn’t and where they need to put the money.

Suitable for cyclists

Cityring does not want to compete with bicycles, but instead integrates into existing transport infrastructure. “Metro actually supports the idea that bikes can be either the last mile or the first mile, so you can use them in combination,” Olsen said.

Bicycles are allowed on the subway outside business hours, and cellars at each station provide storage for two-wheelers when not in use. Screens at the exits inform you about the departure of the nearest buses and trains, making it easy to transfer.

This shiny new railway line has no conductors and works automatically.

This shiny new railway line has no conductors and works automatically.

Reginaldo Sales / Metro Company

While these features have made residents excited about the new system, Olsen thinks “the biggest thing is that you don’t have to look up a schedule,” he said. “You can just walk through the station and there will be a train right after.” For him, freedom from the shackles of timetables exemplifies the ease of use of the subway.

The new M3 line – and the expansion of the metro in general – not only serves the city within the city, but also allows Copenhagen to compete internationally. Citing Hamburg, Germany, and Stockholm, Sweden, as the closest rivals, Olsen hopes to attract both business and tourists to Copenhagen through the opportunities provided by the subway.

With the opening of the M3 Cityring, ridership is expected to rise from 65 million to 122 million by 2020, and two extensions to the existing M4 line are due 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 don’t have to think a lot about using the subway because it’s easy to use and you don’t have to plan your journey, then I think we’ve been successful.”