April 17, 2018

Odense light rail line begins to take shape

Written by  Denis Bowers
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RUNNING slightly ahead of Copenhagen with the opening of its 14.4km light rail line planned for the end of 2020, is Odense, which is situated on the island of Funen, and with a population of 200,000, is Denmark’s third largest city.

The original purpose of the line was to connect the new university hospital and the city’s university, located on a green field site 2-3km southeast of the city, with the city centre and the main station.

Odense RoadprepThe line is also the centrepiece of the extensive new city centre development which aims to rectify a major 1970’s town planning disaster where a large part of the old city centre was torn down to accommodate a four-lane highway.

The highway has now been closed and an intensive restoration project is underway, with the construction of dense buildings sympathetic with the old centre and new pedestrian and cycling routes. The light rail line is the only traffic planned in the area with two stations set to serve the development.

As well as the hospital and university, the line will link Taarup, a shopping and housing area in the northwest of the city with a major sports facility, industrial areas destined for development, including railway property near the main station, the main shopping centre, the world-famous Hans Christians Andersen museum, dense housing areas, an out-of-town shopping area, a park-and-ride facility close to the E20 motorway before terminating at Hjallese station on the local railway line between Odense and Svendborg.

Utility relocation along the route began in 2015 and contracts for the project’s seven civil works packages were awarded between spring 2017 and the start of this year. Construction is now partly underway on the route and work on the entire line is expected to have started by the summer, continuing until early 2020.

Work is also set to start this year on the maintenance and control centre near the park-and-ride facility at the southern end of the line. Spain’s Comsa secured the contract to carry out these works as part of its DKr 1.2bn bid for the railway systems contract, which was confirmed in May 2017. Comsa is also responsible for installation of track, electrification, telecommunications, Scada, signalling, and construction of stations.

The design of the trams and tram stops will be finalised by the middle of this year while the first stations will be completed in 2019. Stadler Pankow secured a contract worth nearly e45m for the supply of 16 low-floor Variobahn LRVs, which are similar to those in service in Aarhus and Bergen. The original order was for 14 trams, but with the owners deciding to increase the daytime service frequency, two further LRVs were added. The vehicles will be built at Stadler Pankow’s factory in Berlin.

Commissioning

Test running of the trams and commissioning of the trackwork will be carried out in 2020 culminating in the opening of the line at the end of the year. Trams will operate at seven-and-a-half-minute intervals during weekdays and at a 10 and 15-minute frequency at the weekends and evenings respectively.

Negotiations are set to take place during 2018 between Odense Letbane and five prospective operators of the light rail line, with an announcement of the winning bidder expected by the end of the year. The bidders for the contract are Arriva Denmark, Keolis Denmark, Metro Service, Stockholm Spårvägar, and Odense Light Rail Service, a joint venture between Umove and Transdev Sweden.

In the medium-term, a second line is planned for the city which will consist of two branches linked to the inaugural line. The first will run to Odense Zoo in the southwest of the city, passing the site of the existing hospital which will be redeveloped when the new university hospital opens. The other branch will serve Vollsmose, a socially-challenged housing area in the northeast. The line is intended to improve the integration of this area with the rest of the city.

The new line will share the central section with the first line, effectively doubling the frequency of the service through the city centre. Turnouts will be built as part of the first stage of the project to facilitate the future construction of these branches.

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