Light rail as enabler for urban development

Light rail

Light rail

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Peter Aarkrog

Peter Aarkrog

Spearhead Director, Rail Systems, Denmark
T: +45 51616847

The future light rail connection along the ring road ‘Ring 3’ just west of Copenhagen not only promotes a more coherent city infrastructure. It also has the potential to become a powerful enabler for urban growth and development.

Since 1947, the ‘Finger Plan’ has served as a solid framework for development of the greater Copenhagen area, creating efficient infrastructure along the five fingers. But as city districts have grown denser and extended along the radials, the need for a strong transversal connection has arisen as well.

From 2020/2021, a new light rail connection will create a strong transversal link between the five fingers. More than 1 million passengers a month are expected to benefit from the light rail connection’s shorter travel times and improved comfort compared to the bus – as well as zero local emissions, since the system runs entirely on electricity. But the future light rail connection also carries a potential that reaches far beyond the tangible benefits for the daily commute:

“1,000 new inhabitants move to Copenhagen each month. Consequently, the capacity of the roads and existing public transportation comes under pressure. A light rail system connecting the city train stations on Ring 3 will promote sustainable transportation and further settlement in the suburbs,” Senior Director Peter Aarkrog explains.

Infrastructure as a catalyst for development

From light rail and metro projects around the world, a significant derived effect has been observed. While a bus line can be changed or closed down, a railway system provides a permanent infrastructure, which attracts long term investments and influences patterns of settlement in a fundamental way. It may sound abstract, but is in fact a familiar and well known phenomenon: 
 
“Bus lines are typically set up where urban development has already happened, but people move to areas where stations are built. This is the main reason why rail links enhance urban development,”  Senior Director Peter Aarkrog explains.

New infrastructure strongly affects existing urban environment as well. The Danish Nationwide Planning Directive allows for a significantly denser urban environment in vicinity to stations - which means that related functions and institutions can be brought together in new urban hubs with distinct identities. In this way, the 28 new light rail stations along the line will form a string of new access points that have the potential to substantially redefine and breathe new life into the suburban areas in their vicinity.

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