The line is scheduled to open by the end of 2018 and is a key part of Banedanmark's plans to double network capacity by 2020.

The first contract to design and build five bridges is expected to be awarded this summer and the remaining contracts will be let by the end of 2013. Each civil works package is valued at between €30m and €200m in order to attract a mix of international and local bidders which, according to project director Mr Jan Schneider-Tilli, should mitigate the high costs of conducting construction work in Denmark. The project is budgeted at DKr 10.4bn

($US 1.88bn), including a 20% government contingency reserve, which Schneider-Tilli says is comparable per-km with construction of France's Rhine-Rhône high-speed line.

The new line will relieve the existing mainline through Roskilde, reducing journey times between Copenhagen and Ringsted by 21 minutes to 38 minutes. ETCS Level 2 will be installed on the line which will be electrified at 25kV ac, have a maximum operating speed of 250km/h and include an intermediate station at Køge North, where an interchange with the S-Train network will be possible.

A new inter-city and S-Train hub station is also envisioned at Ny Ellebjerg which could be used by international services to avoid reversing at Copenhagen main station.

A variety of options were considered for improving rail services west of the capital, including increasing capacity on the existing line. However, Banedanmark concluded that new construction would be more cost-effective because it would avoid delays and long-term disruption to existing services. Civil works construction on the 56km double-track route will take place from 2014-2016, with tracklaying due to start in 2015. Railway systems will be installed from 2015-2017, with commissioning due to start at the end of 2017, and test-running by mid-2018.

The new line is the first phase of Denmark's "one hour" target strategy which aims to link all of Denmark's major cities - Aarhus, Aalborg, Odense and Copenhagen - in one hour or less by rail.

Banedanmark CEO Mr Jesper Hansen says there is political pressure to not take any chances with the project by pioneering new technologies which might lead to cost and time overruns. Inevitably this will suit traditional European suppliers, although Hansen says Banedanmark is open to interest from all international bidders.

"We want the technology

to be as new and efficient as possible," Hansen says. "Denmark is a small country so we should not be the one

to develop new technologies.

We want to take advantage of what has already been tried and tested in other countries."