New train tunnels begin to take shape
It has been noisy here in Stockholm in recent months, as workers blast and drill their way through the city's bedrock. They are carving out tunnels that will one day become the Stockholm City Line, six kilometers of railway meant to ease the traffic on the Swedish capital city's existing lines. The new commuter tracks promise to double the total train capacity that passes through town.
On Tuesday morning, the Swedish Transport Administration showed off their work for the media.
From Medborgarplatsen, one of the main squares on Stockholm's south island, you walk down some steps and into a park. To the left, you see green grass and sculptures. To the right, is an enormously long wall of chipboard. It circles the massive construction site, but it's just a small part of what will become the Stockholm City Line or Citybanan.
Work on this particular site, where new tracks will connect to the existing rails, began last year. Today, workers are bustling around in bright green suits. You can see showers of sparks and smell burning metal. A crane and other construction vehicles roll over the dirt.
Standing on the balcony of the Swedish Transport Administration, overlooking the site, is Hendrik Wille, project manager for Bilfinger Berger, a construction company based out of Germany that has been contracted to help. While many of the sites require blasting through the rock, he explains that that's not the case at this particular place and that they will dig here instead using the "cut and cover" method.
Wille says that one of the main challenges is to reinforce the foundations of existing buildings, so they don't collapse as tunnels are dug beneath them.
As we head down to an old building, built in the late 19th century, a train goes by. It's one of 550 a day that rides along one of the two existing tracks. After the City Line is done, it will double the city's rail capacity.
Workers are strengthening the foundation of the majestic old building with hundreds of piles.
"You drill a steel pipe and sometimes you put a steel core in it, and you drill it down into the rock," says Lars Lindholm from the Swedish Transport Administration. "So the steel core will take all the load from the house."
Workers then test the piles by dropping heavy loads on them. The loads fall with a clang, resonating through the cellar of the old building.
Walking through the mud to another section of the site, Lars Lindholm points out where the new tracks will run and where the ventilation building will stand. The plan also includes provisions to improve Fatburs park, which the existing rails traverse. They, along with the new tracks, will be covered to make the area more accessible and child-friendly.
Construction for the whole project is slated to wrap up in 2017 and Lindholm is optimistic that trains will be able to start going on the new tracks by then. "We still think that we can open it at that time," he says.