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Key trends from the SmartMetro conference: capacity, capacity, capacity!

Photo: das büro

​Last week, the full food chain of actors in urban transport systems gathered in Copenhagen for the SmartMetro conference. Top of the agenda was the aim to transport ever more people across cities in the most efficient and sustainable manner. Solutions include new technologies and materials.

Many cities are struggling to keep up with developments. Cities are choking on traffic and the solution is a multi-facetted effort centred on metros and light rail. A city the size of London will gain another 1.4 million inhabitants in the next 15 years. A mega city like Lagos in Nigeria is expecting to double in size by 2050.

To boost urban mobility, it is necessary to construct new metros in many cities across the world. But another core task is to upgrade existing lines and system to ensure maximum utilisation. Even though that is by far the cheapest way to increase capacity, it does not necessarily solve the entire problem, since the maximum outcome in reality may be limited to, e.g., operation with less headway.

Right solutions from the start

COWI's Market Director of metros and roads, Klavs Hestbek Lund, attended the SmartMetro conference and coins the current challenge:

"Most cities carry out little other than quick fixes, which does not tackle demand upfront or steers urban development in any clear direction. As a result, most projects call for further initiatives relatively soon after they've been completed. Roughly speaking, large cities need a new metro line every ten years."

Carrying out a feasibility study early on to analyse cities' needs and calculate the cost-benefit ratio of different solutions can ensure that cities get their investments right from the start. For Copenhagen, three solutions were examined: tram, light rail and metro. The feasibility study revealed that a fully automatic metro would best meet the Danish capital's transport needs in the short and long term, when combined with plans of future extensions.

New technologies increase capacity

To achieve maximum utilisation of existing or new metro lines, investments are made in state-of-the-art technology including CBTC (communication based train control), which allows for minimal headway between trains. Automatic driverless operation and continuous operation are also considered when embarking on most metro projects in order to secure the highest possible level of timeliness, reduce costs and provide the best possible passenger service. Among other issues, these form the basis for the existing Copenhagen Metro and not least Cityringen metro line, which COWI has been deeply involved in. 

Value engineering saves cost and time

Metro projects are characterised by being extremely costly and stretching over years, so keeping costs down is a major priority. To this end, value engineering is a key tool helping designers to optimise construction design, safety and costs.

Jotham Vizard, Senior Vice President of Tunnels in COWI, says:

"Value engineering utilises systematic analysis of the design in terms of functionality, buildability and cost effectiveness. On the Cityringen metro project in Copenhagen, the value engineering process resulted, among other things, in alternative solutions that replaced the need for 17 safety shafts. The project savings were quite substantial, saving not only construction costs but also time, while minimising impact on city life by avoiding traffic diversions etc. at 17 more locations."

Sustainable concrete

The SmartMetro conference clearly demonstrated that sustainability and environment are given more weight by customers globally. Most recently, Santiago in Chile has invested in new metro lines and thousands of less polluting buses, all to combat increasing air pollution.

The selection of materials is vital to the environmental footprint. One of the most durable and sustainable materials in all concrete structures is the new generation of structural steel fibre reinforced concrete (SFRC), which reduces both cost and time. SFRC is among the greenest reinforced concretes, reducing the amount of concrete required for the construction of a tunnel. Furthermore, it cuts CO₂ emissions from production by 70 per cent compared to traditional reinforced concrete.

COWI are specialists in SFRC, which is used, e.g., on the Doha Metro project.

Published: 13.11.2015

Crossrail - among the biggest ongoing metro projects

​Like the Copenhagen Metro, Crossrail in London is also facing these challenges. With a budget of some DKK 150 billion, Crossrail is a vast metro system that will run in the London underground, from east to west.

Scheduled for completion in 2019, it aims to transport 200 million passengers to and from the London city centre every year.

Considering London's growth, the extra capacity provided by the Crossrail project will be spent just a few years after commissioning. And London expects overcrowding on the underground to have doubled by 2041.

Consequently, the city is already planning Crossrail 2, which will be a north-south line opening in 2030. The London Crossrail project will generate some 55,000 jobs and is expected to add more than DKK 400 billion to the national economy.

LAST UPDATED: 05.10.2017