The Scandinavians are planning an international metro network that goes under the sea

The Øresund Bridge. Image: Jorchr, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Bridge is a Scandinavian series which sees an easy going Danish cop team up with a socially awkward Swedish one to solve cross-border crimes. The first season involves a body found on the bridge between the two countries; the second starts on a boat. That's pretty much it for ways of getting from Copenhagen to Malmo, so you might think they'd run out of ideas for season three.

But fear not, for a pair of Swedish engineering firms have come up with a radical plan to create six (count 'em) new links between the two cities – including the world's first metro system to actually cross a sea.

Copenhagen and Malmo have had one fixed crossing ever since the 12km Øresund Bridge - yes, that one - was completed in 2000, linking the two by both road and rail. (It’s actually half bridge and half tunnel, but anyway.) Since then, their economies have become increasingly interlinked, and a growing number of people have begun to commute across the border: mostly Swedes travelling to Copenhagen, which is roughly four times the size of its neighbouring city.

As a result, though, it’s become increasingly clear that the Øresund Bridge isn’t bridge enough. By 2070, what’s more, the region, which currently contains around 3.8 million people, is expected to grow by another 1 million.

So, to accommodate these extra commuters, construction giant Skanska and technical consultancy Sweco have come up with a really big plan:

  • Three tunnels between Helsingborg (Sweden) and Helsingør (Denmark), to the north of the cities – one for road traffic, one for freight trains and one for passenger trains. These could be completed by 2025, under a public-private partnership, at an estimated cost of $3.8bn;
  • A high speed rail link between Malmo and Copenhagen Airport. This'll not only help the airport become a regional hub, but will finally connect Sweden to the rest of Europe's high speed rail, too;
  • A new "supercykelväg" (super cycle path) for bikes across the Øresund Bridge, which currently bars them – the centrepiece of 300km network of regional bike paths;
  • Assorted tram lines, metro extensions and new regional railways;
  • Most excitingly of all, for those of a certain persuasion, a new tunnel to connect Copenhagen and Malmo into single Øresund Metro network, covering both cities.

Here's a before and after of the local rail network:

The Øresund rail network, today and in 2070. Image: Skanska/Sweco.

These proposals are coming from construction firms, not municipal governments, but the authorities have been pondering what an Øresund Metro would look like for some time, and are currently conducting a feasibility study.  This isn't quite the first international transit network – the Texan city of El Paso briefly ran streetcars across the Mexican border to Juárez – but it's certainly the most ambitious. And, in case you’d forgotten, it crosses the sea.

None of this would come cheap (though exactly how not cheap is unclear). It'll take decades, too. But if it goes ahead, cross-border detectives should find they have plenty of work to keep them busy. 

 
 
 
 

Sadiq Khan and Grant Shapps clash over free bus travel for under 18s

A London bus at Victoria station. Image: Getty.

The latest front in the row between Transport for London (TfL) and national government over how to fund the capital’s transport system: free bus travel for the under 18s.

Two weeks ago, you’ll recall, TfL came perilously close to running out of money and was forced to ask for a bail out. The government agreed, but offered less money, and with more strings attached, than the agency wanted. At present, there are a range of fare discounts – some up to 100% – available to children depending on their age and which service they’re using, provided they have the right Oyster card. One of the government’s strings, the mayor’s office says, was to end all free TfL travel for the under 18s, Oyster or no Oyster.

The Department for Transport’s line on all this is that this is about maximising capacity. Many working-age people need to use buses to get to their jobs: they’re more likely to be able to do that, while also social distancing, if those buses aren’t already full of teenagers riding for free. (DfT cited the same motivation for banning the use of the Freedom Pass, which provides free travel for the retired, at peak times.)

But in an open letter to transport secretary Grant Shapps, the mayor, Sadiq Khan, wrote that TfL believed that 30% of children who currently received free travel had a statutory entitlement to it, because they attend schools more than a certain distance from their homes. If TfL doesn’t fund this travel, London’s boroughs must, which apart from loading costs onto local government means replacing an administrative system that already exists with one that doesn’t. 

Some Labour staffers also smell Tory ideological objections to free things for young people at work. To quote Khan’s letter:

“It is abundantly clear that losing free travel would hit the poorest Londoners hardest at a time when finances are stretched more than ever... I want to make sure that families who might not have a choice but to use public transport are not further disadvantaged.”

London’s deputy mayor for transport, Heidi Alexander, is set to meet government officials next week to discuss all this. In the mean time, you can read Khan’s letter here.

UPDATE: The original version of this piece noted that the full agreement between the mayor and DfT remained mysteriously unpublished. Shortly after this story went live, the agreement appeared. Here it is.

Jonn Elledge was founding editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.