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Metro Copenhagen: Keeping connected

At this time of year, Copenhagen is a go-to destination for Christmas shoppers, travelling from throughout Europe and further abroad to experience the seasonal whimsy of the Danish capital. As the hub of Denmark and a popular tourist destination, it is essential that travel around the city is as fast and accessible as possible. Metroselskabet, Metro Copenhagen, have been working to stay ahead of the game, with the extension to their line six years into construction and almost ready for use.

Wandering through Copenhagen in December is a true Christmastime experience. Strolling down the frost-bitten cobbled streets, colourful market stalls combat the grey skies with offerings of stocking fillers and traditional toys, handmade tree decorations and delicious Christmas candies. If the wind is starting to chill you, you can always nibble some æbleskiver – a traditional Danish pancake-ball eaten at this time of year. These small bites of light, warming comfort food come powdered with sugar and drizzled in anything you could think to put on them. If it’s a drink you need, you can slip into one of the many straw-filled faux-taverns serving tankards of hot gløgg (mulled wine or cider).

Copenhagen, like many of its neighbours, sports several Christmas markets at this time of year, the most famous found in the Tivoli Gardens, accompanied by theme park rides and live cabaret shows lighting up the night. Ice rinks also pop up around the city, or, for a more peaceful pastime, there are gaudy and intricate treasures alike waiting to be discovered in Rosenborg Castle, and multiple formal parks and gardens to explore.

With all of this to see around the city and more, it’s essential that Copenhagen’s public transport remains efficient. For this reason, in collaboration with the municipal authorities of Copenhagen and Frederiksberg, the Danish government is expanding the city’s existing metro with a new circle line, aptly called Cityringen. This entirely new line will add 17 new underground stations to Copenhagen. Running 15.5 km underground, the line will improve travel access to downtown Copenhagen, the ‘bridge quarters’ and Frederiksberg. It is set to open in July 2019.

However, the slated work will not stop there. In early 2020, the two stations on the metro’s Nordhavn extension will also be linked to Cityringen, and in 2023 the Sydhavn extension will also join the Copenhagen metro network, adding yet another five stations. In total, the planned work will add 24 new stations to Copenhagen’s metro system network.

The new stations will be constructed in keeping with the metro’s existing values and design features; like their predecessors, the stations will be spacious and open, with easy access from street level both for travelers and for the sun. Natural daylight is a hallmark of the Copenhagen Metro, with their subterranean stations carefully designed to make sure that underground travel remains a well-lit, spacious and soothing experience.

However, the new stations will not rest here: they plan to continue where the previous stations left off, taking these design values and elevating them to the next level. Being safe, light, airy and well-organised spaces are fundamental qualities of the present Metro’s aesthetic, and designers are working to develop these further in the latest additions. The new stations will all have a unique feeling; the existing stations all share the same design, but their youngest siblings will explore new shapes, colours and materials to give each location its own look and feel. Additionally, where skylights need to be added to keep the Metro’s natural lighting present throughout, these constructions will also be incorporated stylistically into the cityscape above ground.

Despite high levels of design going into the finished product, extensive construction work snaking through this picturesque city will, of course, have the unattractive side-effect of snaking building sites. Usually a quintessentially European blend of modernity and biscuit-tin-worthy historic whimsy, scaffolding and view-obscuring construction site hoardings are an unfortunate addition – especially at a time of year when so many holiday-makers are visiting the city. Fortunately for tourists and locals alike, Cool Construction has made it a mission, in conjunction with Copenhagen Metro, to keep the city beautiful.

Launched in 2011, Cool Construction turn construction site hoardings into public art displays. They complete over 100 projects around inner Copenhagen every year, financed by advertising on certain sections of the hoardings, whilst they turn the rest into a visual celebration. Some of the sites pose challenges – for example, the 365 metres of wall at the Sønder Boulevard construction site can only be reached and worked on when traffic is halted. The solution has become an annual spectator event; with artists applying for the privilege of getting involved every year, 30-40 selected artists have one weekend to turn their sections of the wall into a colourful art installation. Thousands turn out over the course of the weekend to watch the artists in action.

Subterranean construction is no simple beast. Before work on the Cityringen could begin, geotechnical drilling was needed to test the safety perimeters required, such as determining much earth the network’s pressure tunnels, stations and shafts could withstand. Vulnerable existing structures also needed to be measured to calculate whether the underground works would risk damage to them or the structures supporting them. To further avoid damage to the surrounding buildings, pumpings from the water-bearing layers in the subsoil were taken to identify where these layers lay and how deep into the subsoil the effects of surrounding construction could be traced. Once this was completed, the area’s stability was increased through filling subterranean pockets with a stable material. Lastly, obligatory archeological excavations took place to ensure that no history was lost to the construction.

Once the soil had been studied and prepared, the next stage was to redirect utility lines. Cities are bustling entities, and what we see above ground literally does only scratch the service. As well as the Metro’s complex operations, infrastructure networks link every building to the essentials of electricity, gas, heating, water and telecommunications – all of which needed to be re-routed. The work costed around DKK one billion.

Construction of the new Cityringen lines began in earnest in 2011. Two years later, four machines began boring the 31-km tunnel, completing earlier this year. Meanwhile, the core construction of the stations has taken place, and the final phase – refurbishment of the areas around the new stations – is now underway. This includes the aesthetic touches, as well as more practical details such as signs and lighting. This step is expected to complete in 2017, and the finished metro will undertake test runs between then and its official opening, scheduled for July 2019. (he extension to Nordhavn will open in the winter of 2019/2020, and the extension to Sydhavn will open in 2023.

Originally a Viking fishing village, Copenhagen has been through many evolutions in its lifetime. We still need to wait a couple of years before we can enjoy the benefits of the new Cityringen, but for Metro Copenhagen, the bulk of the work is finally drawing to a close. It has been a painstaking and expensive process, but one that will make a marked difference to locals and visitors alike. It is these sorts of investments and long-term projects that allow a city to stay ahead, and culture-filled Copenhagen has no plans to lose its reputation as a smooth-running European hub. Undoubtedly, Christmas-lovers of the world will be flocking to it for many winters to come.