Transport, travel and logistics
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Automating one of the world’s largest and fastest driverless mass-transit systems
In Copenhagen, the city’s S-train, a network of urban and suburban rail lines, is already operating at high capacity. But demand for services continues to grow. So, to carry more people and lift the network into the future, Danish State Railways (DSB) is planning to transform the current network into a fully automated transport system. DSB recognised that innovative driverless technology is bringing important opportunities to expand network capacity and accommodate more journeys on existing infrastructure worldwide. Once complete, this will be one of the world's largest and fastest driverless mass-transit system.
Change on this scale demands expert transition planning. In a major engagement lasting almost two years, PA played a key role, providing rail-sector expertise, extensive experience of programme management and proven ability to support complex, public procurement and transformational change. With our support, DSB now has a solid understanding of how to move forward. It has new insight into the technical challenges, a viable procurement strategy, a roadmap for organisational change and robust transition plan – all key components of successful delivery.
Defined the organisation and capabilities required to deliver one of the world’s most ambitious driverless mass-transit system
Applied deep rail-sector knowledge and programme management expertise to lay foundations for successful delivery
Provided technology and market analysis to identify and inform key decisions for senior organisational and political stakeholders
Used our extensive procurement expertise to launch international market dialogue in line with EU procurement regulation
Denmark is the most densely populated country in the Nordic region, with a population of around 5.8 million. The population of its capital city, Copenhagen, has grown by 12.5 per cent between 2011 and 2021. With over 1.3 million people living in and around Copenhagen in 2021, there’s an increasing pressure for transport services.
To meet this growing demand and to move the network into the future, Danish State Railways (DSB) is planning to transform the city’s traditional S-train network of urban and suburban lines into a fully automated, driverless transport system.
Automation over the next 20 years will allow the network to accommodate more journeys and to keep up with the increasing population in Copenhagen and the surrounding area. People travelling in and around the capital will have access to more flexible, more efficient, more sustainable services.
This £2bn programme is hugely ambitious. Copenhagen is the first city in the world to introduce driverless trains on this scale. The future network will become one of the world's largest and fastest driverless mass-transit system.
The technology and organisational challenges are significant. The programme will involve getting advanced driverless trains to operate on the existing, 85-year-old rail infrastructure. It will require the integration of the two separate bodies responsible for infrastructure and rolling stock, entailing massive organisational change. And it will require new trains to be introduced with minimal disruption to existing services, enabling the S-train network – and the city – to keep running throughout the transformation.
Change on this scale demands expert transition planning and, in a major engagement lasting almost two years, PA played a key role. Our deep rail-sector expertise, extensive experience of programme management and proven ability to support complex, public procurement made us the right partner for DSB. For example, we’ve worked with Network Rail in the UK to demonstrate how technology will benefit the UK economy by £54 million over 25 years. Importantly, we also provided specific insight from providing DSB with technical analysis to inform the procurement of rolling stock on the regional and long-distance network.
Jurgen Muller, programme director, confirms:
“This is a high-profile public programme. We needed a partner we could trust to provide outstanding programme planning. On this, PA more than delivered. Their commitment and capabilities have been instrumental in laying the right foundations.”
Our first task was to design an organisation alongside DSB capable of delivering the programme. We worked closely with DSB to set the structure and shape the vision for the next two years of the 20+ years’ programme.
To begin, we applied our wide-ranging understanding of large-scale transformations, the rail sector and of driverless and associated technology to map out what kind of analysis DSB would need to carry out to proceed to the tender phase of the programme.
This revealed the technical knowledge the organisation would need in order to engage effectively with the market, such as knowledge of advanced object-detection systems or modern rolling stock design. We also scoped out the requirement for procurement experts capable of navigating complex public procurement rules and advising on multi-million-pound contracts set to span decades.
“When PA came on board, the programme was in its infancy and with little delivery planning in place,” says Jesper Andersen, programme lead. “The PA team rolled up their sleeves and took the challenge in their stride. PA’s work at this stage was highly analytical, but they demonstrated real understanding of the practical challenges to be resolved to enable robust programme delivery. They helped us build our team and establish the capabilities that will turn the vision into reality.”
We drew on our initial analysis of the challenges to group areas needing further exploration into a set of work packages. These were: extending the lifetime of the current fleet, infrastructure, rolling stock, safety, market dialogue and procurement strategy and transition plan.
The safety workstream, for example, sought to understand whether equal or improved safety standards could be achieved with driverless trains. Should DSB establish a new standard to achieve safety on a par with other systems around the world?
The transition plan workstream, by contrast, started to address the practicalities of roll-out. How many driverless trains could be brought into operation each year? What were the implications for infrastructure and signalling? How would different roll-out rates impact passenger services?
Alongside the analysis, we managed the process for producing a decision paper for the DSB board, the Danish Ministry of Transport and the Danish Parliament covering the questions the programme would need to resolve to move on.
“PA were adept at converting technical analysis into logical work packages and extracting the most pertinent points for senior decision makers to address,” confirms Jurgen Muller. “Alongside our team they enabled decision makers to understand the art of the possible and take the decisions needed to progress the programme.”
A priority for the market dialogue and procurement strategy workstream was to ensure that when DSB issued invitations to tender, the organisation would be asking the market for something that was deliverable. To enable this, the programme held four rounds of separate market dialogues, engaging over 30 companies ranging from large rail vendors to specialist technology firms. The programme invited companies to answer questions on focus areas such as technical feasibility, automated technology and transition planning during the different rounds before we held face-to-face discussions. We seamlessly adapted these sessions to virtual meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic and carried out them out in accordance with strict EU regulations around procurement.
We ensured that the future requirements were clearly presented, discussed and tested with the market. This approach helped us drive discussions with vendors to ensure they were capable of meeting DSB’s and the rail network’s specific needs.
To enhance the insights we gathered from these sessions, we conducted market analysis to forecast technology trends and learn from other rail projects with similar attributes.
This information and the data captured in the market dialogue, led us to create a flexible procurement strategy in which tender packages could be split to fit both market and client needs. In taking this approach, consumables and services could be kept under regular contracting methods. However, the technology elements, which were undergoing testing by the market, could be procured through more innovative and collaborative means such as partnerships or shared ownership.
With our support, DSB has a solid understanding of how to move forward with delivering its ambitious automation programme. The organisation now has a viable procurement strategy, a roadmap for organisational change and robust transition plan – all key components of successful delivery.
Comprehensive automation over the next two decades will allow Copenhagen’s S-train network to carry millions of additional passengers every year. The driverless trains will offer a clean, efficient and reliable way to take advantage of everything the city and its surrounds have to offer.