While Britain prepares to rein back its transport spending, UK rail consultants are looking to their Scandinavian friends to provide some succour. Damian Arnold reports.
Spending on rail in Denmark, Sweden and Norway is set to boom over the next 10 years. Denmark recently published a plan to spend €9.2bn (£7.6bn) on heavy rail projects by 2020. In Sweden a £12bn investment on high speed rail projects is expected to be approved before the country’s general election in September and Norway has already set out plans to spend £4.6bn on heavy rail.
Atkins is already well placed with its 600-strong subsidiary, Akins Denmark, formerly Scanconsult, the in-house consultant for the Danish national rail arm Banedanmark, bought in 2001. The largest rail consultant in
Scandinavia is already benefiting from a big increase in consultancy fees in the region. Atkins Denmark earned £34M in 2009 and it expects fee levels to remain at between £35M and £46M for the next decade.
“That is close to double what it has been in the past and as a result we have grown 20% a year for the last two years,” says Atkins Denmark managing director Palle Beck Thomsen. “But it is also getting tougher. For some of the bigger projects there is a lot of competition now.”
This competition comes from UK consultants such as Arup, WSP and Scott Wilson and from German companies hoping to exploit a big shortage of railway engineering expertise.
Scott Wilson, for example, has recently been appointed to carry out independent safety assessment for Denmark’s ERTMS project with Lloyds Register Rail. “We are keen to be involved more there. It’s an easy place to do business and there are lots of exciting opportunities. Sweden, in particular, has talked about welcoming more UK consultants,” says Scott Wilson international rail projects director Derek Holden.
WSP civils director in Sweden Eskill Sellgren says the consultant has won feasibility studies, preliminary design work and detailed design work on eight big rail projects in Sweden, one in Norway and two further feasibility studies in Sweden.
“We’ve had 10 years of downsizing in the rail industry and there is not a tradition for training rail engineers in the universities”
Eva Rindom, Atkins
“There is a big skills gap in all disciplines. About a third to half of Sweden’s engineers are close to retirement age and we will have a problem in the future,” says Atkins Sweden director Per Corshammer . “There are only 400 railway engineers available on the market in Sweden at the moment.”
Atkins Denmark market director for rail, Eva Rindom adds: “We’ve had 10 years of downsizing in the rail industry and there is not a tradition for training rail engineers in the universities.”
Arup’s global rail leader Colin Stewart was disappointed not to be selected for the Danish ERTMS signalling project, but is delighted to have stepped up his firm’s involvement in the country. It has recently been commissioned to investigate the option of a tunnel crossing for the Fehmarn Belt fixed link between Denmark and Germany and also to carry out design work on the Copenhagen’s new Circle Line, the Cityringen.
“With our involvement with these two projects it’s all pointing in the right direction and I think the market will grow steadily. “Rail is an increasingly global market because of the standardisation in technology and systems and that increasingly requires international expertise,” he says.
The Danish government has published a green transport policy under which 65% of all transport spending will be on rail over the next 10 years.
The latest project to be approved at the end of May was the £1.1bn double tracking of the 60km line from Copenhagen to Ringsted.
Atkins has been involved in the feasibility studies as well as preliminary and detailed design for the project, which will be complete in 2018.
Before it starts Atkins will oversee a £99.1M project to upgrade capacity into and out of Copenhagen station.
Construction tender documents will shortly be released for the £1.75bn Cityringen 24-hour driverless circular metro line in Copenhagen.
The contract for the 15km tunnel and 17 stations is due to be signed in October and construction will start early next year with opening scheduled for 2018.
Arup is designing the project in joint venture with Cowi and Systra. Atkins is the client’s advisor in joint venture with Ramboll and will be involved in contract negotiation and construction supervision.
Denmark is spending £500M on light rail projects. Conceptual design has been completed for Denmark’s first light rail scheme, which will be in Aarhus. Studies are underway for
another light rail project in Odense.
Atkins has secured the contract for a rail safety study for the Fehmarn Belt crossing.
Norway is spending £4.6bn on heavy rail in the next few years including double tracking to achieve speeds of 250km/h. This represents a 58% increase.
There is a long-term aspiration to run a high-speed rail line between Oslo and Gothenburg.
The £1.25bn, 24km twin-track line from Oslo to the commuter town of Ski will include Norway’s longest rail tunnel at 19km by 2015. Atkins is part of the consortium
The first phase of Norway’s high-speed rail programme will be the Farriseide (Larvik) to Porsgrunn line in the south. It will include 23km of new track by 2020.
Other projects are the £500M, 14.1km Holm-Nykirke link and a 200km/h, £1bn line between Eidsvoll-Hamar expected to finish by 2020.
A study into a high-speed rail link from Oslo to Trondheim is also underway.
Norway is also working on an ERTMS signalling project and Atkins is looking at the life expectancy of the existing system and testing it out.
Feasibility studies are also underway for light rail projects in Stravangar and Trondheim.
Rail is a major election issue at present and rail spending is expected to go up from 40% to 60% of overall transport outlay.
Atkins Sweden director Per Corshammar says that the consultant has a part in most projects as well as in high level studies for high-speed rail.
“The existing rail network cannot cope with the expected demand in the next 10 years. The public wants more rail lines, the Swedish economy is not bad and there is not too much debt.”
Top of the wish list is a £11.6bn project to build 700km of high-speed lines in Sweden by 2023, which is expected to be approved before the autumn election. A route from Stockholm to Gothenburg with a spur to Helsingborg would be the main line.
Other projects Atkins is involved in include the 130km, £300M Sundsvall to Langsele upgrade and the 70km, £170M double tracking from Gothenburg to Trollhättan.
WSP is involved in design of the 190km Kramfors and Umeå Line; the 240km of line between Umeå and Luleå; the 100km Mälar Line from Stockholm to the west, the 60km Roslag Line from Stockholm to the north; the 100km Nynäs Line from Stockholm to Nynäshasmn; the 60km railway from Uppsala to Gävle; and the 7km West Link tunnel under Gothenburg.
Meanwhile, Sweden is forging ahead with its £1.4bn cross-city Citybanen rail tunnel in Stockholm (see feature p26). The £600M, 15km City Tunnel in Malmo is expected to start operating in December.