Day-old Danish metro system grinds to a halt

  • 2002-10-24

Copenhagen's state-of-the-art subway came to a standstill Oct. 20 just one day after its grand opening, when one of the sleek driverless trains broke down.

The embarrassing setback contrasted with the pomp and circumstance of the previous day's opening ceremony for the long-awaited subway system, which was two years behind schedule.

A group of passengers keen to try out the fully automated transit system were stranded for 20 minutes when their train stopped mid-tunnel before a station. Technicians, unable to locate the fault, were forced to evacuate the train.

The nearly 300 passengers were then forced to use an emergency walkway to get to the nearest station, operating company Oerestadsselskabet said in a statement.

The opening of the first phase of the subway project went ahead as scheduled despite earlier fears that it may be further delayed by safety concerns.

Safety inspectors gave the system the green light on Oct. 17, saying they would review security on the 11-kilometre (6.5 mile) stretch, covering 11 stations, in two months.

The subway, due for completion by 2007, will eventually run over 20 kilometres - around half of it underground - and will serve 22 stations.

Although fully automated and without drivers, each train carries a steward responsible for helping passengers and checking tickets.

The total budget for the project has been put at 11.5 billion kroner (1.5 billion euros) and is financed by loans to be paid back over a period of up to 30 years.