Copenhagen’s Underground “City Fabric”

By Bethany Louise Smith and Elena Stenzel

Right from the start in 2002 the Metro line in Copenhagen used platform screen doors for safety reasons and prevention of incidents. Nowadays the progressive design and technology is heading from Asia to Europe.

Train after train arrives at Kongens Nytorv, the largest intersection of Copenhagen’s Metro system. Screen  doors at each platform open and close every minute, whenever a train reaches the perfect alignment.

A man entering the Metro at Kongens Nytorv.
Photo: Elena Stenzel


Several European metropoles are relying on similar designs and systems. The M1 in Paris is using it already: Automatically driven metros and safety platform screen doors. London has recently started to introduce the system to several underground stations.

Mega cities in Asia, like Singapore and Hong Kong have used the automatized driving system for years and have risen to leading experts when it comes to underground systems. It is quite obvious that mega cities have to deal with a substantial quantity of passengers, but why does a city like Copenhagen, which counts approximately 5.7 million passenger journeys per month, use a Metro system inspired by mega cities in Asia?

Ventilation requires platform screen doors

Christopher J. Cox, Head of Systems and Operations, explains that the platform screen doors were introduced for safety reasons:

” The platform screen doors make sure, that the ventilation works correctly. If there was a serious event, and there was smoke in the tunnel, you want to control where the smoke goes, that’s why there is a separation between the tunnel and the station.”

The ventilation system is the primary reason, why Copenhagen’s Metro built glass doors at each underground platform. Two years ago, they further replaced the detection system of above-the-ground-stations with platform screen doors.

“When the Metro was built, the above stations were open, there was a system, that when something would fall on the track, it would automatically stop the train, however the system was very sensitive to false alarms”.

And there’s another, even more important benefit to the platform screen doors: They prevent people from falling on the tracks and getting struck by the trains.


Platform screen doors seperate tunnel and platform, by that correct ventilation of the tunnel system is guaranteed.
Photo: Elena Stenzel


Reliability makes the difference

Cox explains, that reliability is a very important aspect. People are much more likely to take the Metro, if they know they will only have to wait for approximately a minute. Ever since the Metro company was very keen on perfecting Metro service. By now they have reached a service availability of 99.5%, meaning that only around 4 out of 100 trains suffer from delay – due to automatic drivers.

Compared to S-tog, the suburban railway that connects the central area of Copenhagen with the outer parts, and other trains, the Metro trains are relatively small, therefore they carry fewer passengers.

“Because of that there a many trains and many drivers since the trains are small. So you would make poor economy unless you automatize the driving“.

Substitute Systems replace the driver. One system controls the acceleration and breaking of the train. Signals, sent via radio system, make the train stop at the right places and start again after all the passengers have entered and the way is clear. The door closing and opening system is run by another system, but the two systems are coordinated, so that the train and the platform doors are closing and opening simultaneously.

Emergency systems replace the driver

In case of emergency there are several precautionary measures on board: “There is a fire detection system and emergency call points on the train. There are handles to stop the train at the next stop, so you can evacuate the train by yourself without needing a driver. We covered all the functions a driver would normally fulfil”.

A driverless train at Kongens Nytorv, Copenhagen.
Photo: Elena Stenzel


In 2002 when the Copenhagen Metro was built, it was a little ahead of time. “Concerning driverless trains, we were by no means the first, but maybe we opened the system at a time that was a turning point to the development of this systems.” He refers to the “mini-metro-style”, which becomes more common in Europe: “It doesn’t have the place to transport many people, but it’s perfect for medium size cities”.

This article was written for an Australian as well as a German audience and could be published on or