Let's go underground

The Metro is an important part of the urban mass transport system in Copenhagen.The new extension ‘Cityringen’ is under construction and adds new routes. Several risk management challenges have to be dealt with on a daily basis in order to keep disruption to a minimum.

At an estimated cost of 2.95 billion EUR, connecting 17 new stations and measuring 15 km, the construction of Cityringen is the biggest infrastructure project in Copenhagen since the 17th century.

Connecting Copenhagen

Cityringen is a completely new metro line constructed on the same principles as the existing Copenhagen metro network. The Cityringen circle line will be an underground railway connecting the centre of Copenhagen to the surrounding inner city areas when it is  ompleted in 2019. Cityringen will also be extended with new stations to the urban quarters Nordhavn and Sydhavn, totalling 24 new metro stations by 2023.

The Metro Company (Metroselskabet) plans to run two new lines on Cityringen – one circle route running round the entire track and one pendulum line, which will eventually run between Sydhavn and Nordhavn via the city centre. This will provide extra services for the additional passengers on the busiest part of the route.

The finished lines will influence much of Copenhagen's current transport network: it is believed that the expanded metro will replace many bus services in the inner city. As with the existing Copenhagen Metro, the new lines will consist of driverless train units and operate with a gap of less than two minutes during peak hours and include an all-night service.

Plans for the Cityringen construction were approved by the Danish Parliament on 1 June 2007, and the initial contract was awarded in January 2011, with the main construction work commencing the following summer. The contract, which covers 15 km twin bored tunnels, 17 stations and 5 shaft structures, was awarded to Copenhagen Metro Team. The construction consortium consists of three Italian companies: Salini-Impregilo, Tecnimont and SELI, and in addition the building consortium has some 250 subcontractors and suppliers.


Historic construction site

If P&C Insurance is part of the group of insurers providing cover for the construction project (CAR Insurance) – public liability insurance and insuring physical damage due to the construction work and cover for the Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs) used in the tunnelling project. The sheer number of contractors involved in the construction consortium highlights the complexity associated with large building projects like this.

Large infrastructure projects in dense urban areas create major challenges, such as a considerable number of changes to Copenhagen city's utility grid, which had to be implemented before the actual construction could start. Around the same time, archaeologists from the Museum of Copenhagen worked on what the museum terms "Northern Europe's largest archaeological excavation to date". The archaeologists discovered some remains of the ancient city gate and wall, as well as other finds that resulted in the early history of Copenhagen having to be rewritten.

The city is noted for its historic buildings, which had to be addressed in the planning and construction phase. Even though it is a challenge to build a metro in a dense city, with the narrow streets of Copenhagen, only two existing buildings have had to be demolished to make room for the new metro line and its stations.

Challenging ground conditions

As well as the 17 stations, 5 shafts have been constructed that perform a number of functions including: bifurcations to the future Sydhavn and Nordhavn branches, an access ramp to the Control and Maintenance Centre, and crossovers to enable the metro to switch between tunnels. Three of the shafts are also used to launch and service the Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs).

There are four TBMs in operation, powered by huge electric motors. The machines are approximately 110 metres long and weigh about 800 tons, and each tunnel boring machine is staffed by 10– 15 people, including the 'pilots'. The machines bore on average 10–20 metres of tunnel per day and run day and night.

During the excavation, the machines will remove 3,100,000 tons of earth – roughly equivalent to 1.5 million m³. The earth is being used to reclaim land from the sea in the harbour area, expanding the new urban quarter Nordhavn. Copenhagen is a busy city that already suffers from traffic congestion.

The logistic challenges arising from transporting the earth are at the forefront to minimise the impact on the traffic from the construction sites. As work in the evenings and nights has to be limited to reduce noise disturbance, the Metro management team has to plan the transportation to and from the construction sites in detail to avoid traffic jams.

The flood risk is the dominant natural hazard risk.

Managing risks

According to Russell Saltmarsh (Seconded to Metroselskabet from engineering firm Arup, via COWI Arup Systra JV), responsible for the risk management of the civil works at Metroselskabet, the project has several risks that need to be mitigated. One of the biggest risks associated with any tunnel work in a dense urban environment is the impact on the existing buildings due to settlement caused by the tunnelling, especially considering that nearly half the tunnelling is in mixed soil conditions which can be very demanding and challenging for the contractor.

This was a focus area early on in the project with an assessment being carried out on all buildings within 200m of the alignment to identify sensitive or historic buildings that might be at risk of damage. Once the contractor was appointed it carried out a more detailed assessment of the buildings within a 50m corridor of the tunnel alignment.

The assessment, based on predicted settlement contours from the tunnelling, follows an internationally accepted three-stage process. For each stage of assessment, a progressively more detailed analysis is carried out until it can be demonstrated that the work will not cause damage to existing buildings, as defined in the contract; or the assessment is used to determine the mitigation measures required. In several locations, the tunnels are only a few metres below the foundations of existing buildings, or operational metro stations.

To mitigate the possibility of excessive settlement of the ground causing damage to existing buildings, specialist techniques, such as compensation grouting, have to be applied under some buildings. A sleeved pipe is grouted into a predrilled hole beneath a foundation. Cement is injected at strategic locations, which results in a controlled heave of the overlying soil and structures, mitigating the effects of settlements when the tunnel machines passes through.

For sensitive buildings, 3D analysis of the ground and building structures has been carried out, and the results of this analysis are constantly compared with the results obtained from automatic monitoring systems installed on buildings to ensure that unexpected movements can be identified immediately.

Natural hazard risks

Natural hazard events are other risks to consider when engaging in infrastructure construction, and "in the Copenhagen Metro construction the flood risk is the dominant natural hazard risk," saysMorten Erfurt Hansen, CAR Underwriter at If P&C Insurance. Flooding events have been thoroughly analysed both for the construction phase and the operational phase. Consideration of the flood risk started during the preliminary design phase with hydraulic modelling of the entire city to model ‘flood events’ taking account of climate change.

This allowed the engineers to set flood threshold levels for both the temporary and permanent conditions, which were included in the contract requirements. This, together with the contractors’ own risk assessment and mitigation measures, has mitigated the flood risk as far as possible.

Safety standards

"The CAR insurance coverage is foremost there to cover the very rare and unexpected extreme events that can't be mitigated," says Guy Taylor, Project Director, Civil Work Management at Metroselskabet. Risk assessments and day-to-day risk mitigation are managed by the internal risk management organisation, following contractual requirements to comply with international best practice and standards.

There are two codes of practice for risk management on tunnelling projects, one produced by the British Tunnelling Society (BTS) and one produced by the International Tunnelling Insurance Group (ITIG). “Both documents are very similar but we reference A Code of Practice for Risk Management of Tunnel Works (ITIG) in our contract,” says Russell Saltmarsh.

The objective of the code is to promote and secure best practice for the minimisation and management of risk associated with the design and construction of tunnels, caverns, shafts and associated underground structures, including the renovation of existing underground structures. It sets out practices for the identification of risks, their allocation between the parties to the contract and the contract insurers; and the management and control of risks through the use of risk assessments and risk registers.

Everyone is a risk owner

Each project team and contractor is a risk owner, and the management team at Metroselskabet will ensure that the key skills, sustainable working practice and risk management – as well as industry best practices – are promoted throughout the organisations. Internal risk management and risk registration are an inherent part through all stages of the project, from the Project Development Stage, through the Construction Stage to the final Operational Stage. The risk register and assessments are always carried forward to the next project stage.

The risk registers are required to identify and clarify ownership of risks and details, clearly and concisely, and how the risks are to be allocated, controlled, mitigated and managed. “It’s a highly complex job,” says Russell, “with multiple risks and owners that need to be addressed on a daily basis.” The project management of the new Cityringen will face many challenges during the construction phase, but given the extensive experience of the project team, there are well-developed risk management structures in place to tackle these challenges.

The main civil works construction phase is expected to be completed in the first half of 2017, followed by a testing phase, and when the new lines are taken into operation in 2019, they will be much welcomed by the citizens of Copenhagen. The average travelling speed of the trains through the city will be 40 km/h, including stops at stations. It is estimated that by 2025, 130 million passengers will be travelling on the Copenhagen Metro system annually.

Infrastructure development is critical to support social progress and economic growth. Currently, large building projects in energy, transport, water supply and telecommunications are taking place throughout the Nordic Region, and If P&C Insurance and the insurance industry as a whole support these enormous investments as risk consultants and risk carriers.

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Photo of Fredrik Holmqvist

Fredrik Holmqvist

Head of Risk Management Services, Denmark
Head of International Risk Management Services

Contact Fredrik Holmqvist