Squeezing a major infrastructure project into a dense urban area is a complex task. Here are our Top 7 tips for how to minimise the environmental impact and nuisance to citizens and businesses.
Denser urban areas, a rising demand for passenger capacity and a global need to cut CO₂ emissions are leading to a growing interest in developing rail solutions in cities.
According to the International Transport Forum, passenger mobility – corresponding to the total volume of individual trips – will increase by a staggering 200-300% to 2050. In other words, there is a huge need for mobility solutions, such as new metro lines, to provide adequate transport capacity for the growing volumes of people in our expanding cities.
Unsurprisingly, squeezing a major infrastructure project into an urban area is a complex task. For one thing, you need to be careful not to damage the buildings on the surface when drilling the tunnels. And before even lowering the tunnel boring machines into the ground, you need to know what is already present under the ground – and plan the construction work accordingly.
Sometimes the complexity takes its toll and you end up in a situation where the obvious conclusion is that things could definitely have been better organised. The important thing is to be sure to apply the lessons learned when starting new projects.
Based on our experience of large infrastructure projects, here are our Top 7 tips for how to minimise the environmental impact and nuisance to citizens and businesses when establishing a major new transportation facility in a dense city.
1. Analyses of environmental and planning law
This is the basis for when and how the work can be organised. For example, there may be consultations to be held or permits to be obtained before the work can start.
The work cannot start until the rights to the areas are in place. If the authorities place requirements on privately owned areas to make room for the project, there must be a legal basis to do so. This process can take a long time. In Denmark, 1-1.5 years should typically be allowed to complete an expropriation.
3. How will the project affect the surrounding area?
Each phase of construction may have a different impact on the surroundings. This may relate to fire safety provisions for neighbouring properties, relocation of access roads to homes, altering bus routes and diverting traffic generally. For example, on the Copenhagen Metro City Ring, a total of 80-90 traffic lights have been replaced, 30 bus lines have been redirected and 12,000 m³ of soil analysed and investigated by archaeologists to preserve historical treasures.
4. Know your neighbours
An in-depth knowledge of the surroundings is crucial to proper planning of the work. If the construction site is located in an industrial area, there may be less need to limit noisy work, but there may also be businesses with particularly sensitive equipment which could suffer from vibration, for example. Other areas may contain schools and colleges. Here it may be advisable – particularly at exam times – to avoid noisy works.
5. Claims for compensation or rehousing?
In residential areas, neighbours may be entitled to rehousing or compensation because of noise from the building work. This can be a major expense for construction projects in densely populated areas. Carry out a thorough analysis of noise levels, periods with the noisiest activities, and the number of households affected. Could it make sense to mitigate any noise nuisance? This could include installing noise-reducing windows etc. in the surrounding homes, or placing specific demands on the contractors to limit the noisy construction periods.
6. Draw up a plan for handling noise and vibrations
Produce a plan setting out how much the surroundings are likely to be affected, what you propose to do to minimise the nuisance, and how you will handle any disagreements. This plan will provide a good basis for cooperation with the authorities, and is a good tool for discussions with the neighbours. It is well worth the effort.
7. Be honest
Regardless of all the pre-emptive measures taken and all the planning done, public nuisances cannot be completely avoided when introducing major new infrastructure into confined spaces. Be honest about this in your discussions with the public and key stakeholders.
Making room for a major infrastructure project in a dense urban area is a complex task. We are not suggesting that the nuisances and complaints can be eliminated. But by following the above tips we do believe that the issues can be significantly reduced to the benefit of the client, the project and its neighbours.