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Old August 14th, 2010, 07:15 PM   #1
Bjarki
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ÍSLAND | Járnbrautir | Railroads

JBÍ (Járnbrautarfélag Íslands, e. The Icelandic Rail Company) proudly presents a hopelessly optimistic vision for a national rail network!


First, let us see the big picture. I suggest three rail lines radiating from the capital Reykjavík; one to Keflavík International Airport. One going east to the towns in the southern lowlands and terminating at the new ferry harbour that connects Vestmannaeyjar with the mainland and finally one going north and terminating in the northern town of Húsavík.


A close-up of the southwestern part of the country. I suggest one suburban station for each of the long distance lines before the lines merge and terminate at Reykjavík Central station. I know there are some problems associated with having a terminus station as the main station but the geography of Reykjavík does not leave us with much choice since the city center and business district is on a peninsula.


A close-up view of the red airport line. It is the most logical first section of the system that connects the Reykjavík metro area with the airport and the Town of Reykjanes (Reykjanesbćr) which has a population of around 18.000 people. This would be a simple and very straight route over a flat lava desert from the airport to the urban fringes of metro Reykjavík.

I suggest digging a 3.6 kilometer long tunnel under the suburban town of Hafnarfjörđur. There is no way to run on the surface through the town and going around it would be difficult because of NIMBY an environmental concerns and would add to the distance of the line as well.

When emerging from the tunnel on the north side of Hafnarfjörđur, the line would follow the urban freeway (road 41) north, there is plenty of space in the median there. It would then turn west along road 49 and merge with the other lines to be built later and head into Reykjavík Central. This would be the most expensive portion of the route as it would need to run in a tunnel at least for the final three kilometers into the central station and be wide enough to handle the eventual traffic of both the long distance lines and the urban rail network (more on that later). It makes sense to terminate the airport line at Mjódd (indicated by the blue arrow) at first, until the tunnel could be built.


A close-up of the blue eastern line. The second priority after the airport line would probably be building this line to Selfoss. Continuing from there would only come after the northern orange line had reached Akranes. The main purpose of continuing to the east would be to connect with the ferry harbor to Vestmannaeyjar (pop. 4000) but the line would swing by at the smaller towns of Hella and Hvolsvöllur. The construction is fairly straight-forward except for the mountain pass between Reykjavík and Hveragerđi which is problematic both because of tough winter conditions and steep gradients. A 11 kilometer long tunnel under the highest part of the route solves this. In addition to passengers, the blue line could be an important route for freight rail. Fresh produce by the large fishing industry in Vestmannaeyjar could be quickly transported via rail to the airport for air-freight to markets in Europe and North America.


The first section of the orange northern line.

The second section of orange northern line.

The north line is the longest section of the system by far but a low traffic volume allows us to have most of it single-tracked. The Swedish Botniabanan is a potential model for this. The line would head out of the city to the northeast, crossing some sounds and channels by bridges. It would then go via 6.5 km long tunnel under the fjord Hvalfjörđur (there is already a road tunnel under the fjord). The line would then go into the town of Akranes (pop. 7000). With a travel time of only 15-20 minutes between Akranes and Reykjavík C, the town would pretty much function as the same urban area. Continuing the line beyond Akranes would probably not be feasible except by going all the way to Akureyri (pop. 17,000) in the north where the train could capture most or all of the current air travel market between Reykjavík and Akureyri. Several small small towns and villages happen along the way so we stop there as well even if most trains should probably bypass them. Sauđárkrókur (pop. 2600) and Borgarnes (pop. 1800) are the most significant.

This is the most difficult line to build because of the geography. Three long tunnels are needed to reach Akureyri and bypass high elevations and gradients. 7 km, 10 km and 22 km long.

On the map I show a further extension of the north line to the town of Húsavík (pop. 2500) by digging a 12 km tunnel under the fjord Eyjafjörđur and the mountain immediately by its side. This would not happen with the current situation in the area. Húsavík has however a big potential for industrial expansion that would both increase the population and (more importantly) create demand for freight rail.


Finally, I suggest that within the Reykjavík metro area, the long distance rail corridors would be used for mass transit as well. This implementation assumes a fast urban rail network with about 1 km interval between stations, shown as pink lines on the map (darker red sections are underground). I also suggest a light rail network, indicated by blue lines, to service the areas that are not well connected to the "heavy" rail network.


These plans could drastically change how Reykjavík develops as a city. The green shaded areas on the above map indicate areas where new development could take place. These include the site of the current domestic airport near the city center, that airport would become obsolete with a fast rail link to the Keflavík International Airport so the area could be developed as a densely built urban environment that would basically be an extension of the current city center.

Further east are areas that currently have some low value commercial and industrial development but their central location make them ideal for new job centers and dense transit oriented development. To the north are currently undeveloped areas that could become new suburbs, well served by the urban rail.
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Old August 15th, 2010, 05:16 PM   #2
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Starting with a line from Reykjavík to the airport at Keflavík would seem to be a natural first step in building an Icelandic rail network. It it unfortunate that after that a new line would have to constructed rather than expanding from Keflavik, but one can't argue with reality.

When it comes to a light rail network in Reykjavík, I wonder if it has ever been looked into properly? There was recently a light rail study here in Trondheim, which IIRC isn't that much larger than Reykjavík, that concluded that (re-)building a proper network will be too expensive. Of course, such studies are never directly transferable to other cities, but it might give an indication.
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Old August 15th, 2010, 06:13 PM   #3
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There has not been a thorough cost-benefit analysis of light rail in Reykjavík as far as I know. The current master plan for Reykjavík mentions rail-based transportation slightly and lays out some possible routes for light-rail lines. Those plans are not very visionary and will probably never be feasible.

The fact is that Reykjavík is an extremely sprawly American-style city and for public transport of any sorts to really be an option, the city needs to be seriously reformed. Just laying down tracks within the current state of the city would result in failure. My thinking with the Reykjavík area network was that it should be connected with the development of the green areas. If all the growth of the metro area would be focused on these areas for the next 40 years we would probably have 50 to 100 thousand new residents there and tens of thousands of new jobs which would make the rail plan realistic I think.
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Old August 16th, 2010, 09:17 PM   #4
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Interesting idea! Although I think light rail for Reykjavik area would be more feasible than full scale 'real' railway line connecting several towns. Real problem would be cost - both building the line (railway building is expensive) and maintaining it. Keeping it running might be even bigger issue - really small population means low passenger traffic which might need yearly government funding to keep railway running (and we all know how unpopular rising taxes are )

Btw,hows the industry in small towns around Reykjavik? Could they provide enough freight traffic to maintain railway line?
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Old August 17th, 2010, 04:40 PM   #5
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Something like this wouldn't drop out of the sky one night of course. It would take probably 20+ years to build the entire network and it wouldn't start until having been debated for a long time. It would also be built in phases and each one would need to be assessed induvidually.

Phase I: Reykjavík to KEF airport, 50 km.
Phase II: Reykjavík to Selfoss and Akranes, 80 km.
Phase III: Akranes to Akureyri and Selfoss to Vestmannaeyjar ferry, 390 km.
Phase IV: Akureyri to Húsavík: 70 km.

The first two phases are only 130 km combined but benefit something like 70% of the population. It is a small network, even considering the size of the population or the economy. (Tiny Luxembourg has 275 km of rail.) Combined length of the network is 590 km which is more of a stretch but still about the same size per capita as in countries like Australia or Canada that also have a population density similar to Iceland.

There are a couple of things to consider about rail building in Iceland that might affect the cost of such a project. The first is that land is cheap, a large part of the cost of a new rail line in most places is acquiring the land for it but this would be relatively cheap in Iceland. The second is that Iceland is not currently married to any specific technology. There is no existing infrastructure that new track needs to be compatible with and no neighbours to connect to. Are there any technologies out there that could maybe be cheaper to build than the conventional steel wheels on steel tracks? I don't know, this needs to be studied.

There is lots of heavy industry near the town Akranes, north of Reykjavík. The industrial port of Grundartangi could be made into the primary cargo port for the country and connected to the rail network. That would generate loads of freight traffic.
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Old August 18th, 2010, 10:48 AM   #6
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Very nice.

Is the dark red supposed to be underground (within the Reykjavík)? If so I do not agree that the rail down Miklubraut would need to be dug down. By the time that would be built intersection wouldn't be problematic, and the space is adequate. So i would suggest just running it between the lanes with access from the bridges crossing it.

Last edited by Schliemann; August 18th, 2010 at 10:59 AM.
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Old August 18th, 2010, 02:41 PM   #7
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True, it could run above ground at least to the intersection with Grensásvegur or even all the way to Kringlan if the intersections with Grensásvegur and Háaleitisbraut were made grade separated. Everything west of Kringlan would need to go underground for the lack of space on the surface.
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Old August 21st, 2010, 02:10 PM   #8
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Just out of curiosity. They are about to start building a new central station by the airport. Are you imagining that serving as a main rail-station as well. I never understood why it was so important to build it while the future location of the airport is still unknown.

Secondly. I remember a suggestion from a contractor saying he would tunnel Hringbraut to Kringlan without payment from the state if he would acquire the land freed up by it. That of course would not happen until the housing marked would pick up, so there are still a few years until that is feasible, probably just in time for the massive railproject. It would make sense to include rail in that tunnel.
That way the city would get quite denser west of Kringlan supporting the underground stations you propose. This would be a huge improvement for the city.

Plus west of Grensásvegur there is a hill. So the rail could start elevating before that creating a bridge over the intersection, and then rejoin the surface on the other side. As for Háaleytisbraut, it's a relatively small street which has already problem with the speed of traffic (assumption made by all the warning signs). So killing of that intersection shouldn't cause any protest. If you are driving from the west a simple uturn at Grensásvegur would solve that.

Last edited by Schliemann; August 21st, 2010 at 02:20 PM.
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Old August 21st, 2010, 04:32 PM   #9
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Yes, I put the location of the central station on the site of this proposed transport center. Another option would be to continue the tunnel straight under the new hospital area and basing the central station in the current location of BSÍ (the long-distance bus terminal). By doing that, the central station would be closer to the old city center but on the other hand, not as close to the new development in the airport area.

Construction is set to start in the hospital area next year I think. Since the area is going to be all dug out any way, there is a golden opportunity there to dig a channel through the area and cover it. Even if it were not used for trains for a couple of decades, it would save a lot of money since it would be a lot more expensive to dig or blast a tunnel under the area when the hospital is already built.

Here is a visualisation of the two possibilities for the central station. Blue is the hospital area, orange are the two feasible sites for the central station.

Last edited by Bjarki; August 21st, 2010 at 05:01 PM.
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Old August 21st, 2010, 07:37 PM   #10
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I agree that opportunity should not be missed, but I don't find that likely. As long as the station is accessible for public transit, like your proposed light rail system and bus service, either location seem acceptable to me.
Personally I think the BSÍ location would suite better, since after BSÍ is gone I can't think what would replace it, while the Vatsmýri area could be used for residential or commerce. I also think car traffic should be thought of. A terminal like that would attract traffic and need much parking space.
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Old September 22nd, 2010, 09:56 PM   #11
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I made these metro thoughts:
Note that the blue line follows the dark green to the central station. The dark green and light green are south and north of same line.



With stations:

[IMG][/IMG]

I never been to Reykjavik, so its based on the satellite photo, and a quick view in the pictures uploaded to google earth. I Made the main station at the Icelandic parliament (Alţingishúsiđ), it fitted naturally to me

I was thinking that Reykjavik would expand in the direction of the yellow line, around the gulf, and up the mountain, just a bit, with the 2 green lines. Up at the mountain, the line should be overground, dig its way through the landscape if needed, and a light suburb city should be constructed along. The way around the gulf, should be new bigger houses of modern architecture (only if suited thou) more dense city.

I'll be glad if you could tell me about the city, main shopping areas etc.

About a rail line, does there live more than 50.000 people out of the Reykjavik suburbs?

Last edited by Alseimik; September 22nd, 2010 at 10:14 PM. Reason: Picture link not working
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Old November 24th, 2010, 01:53 PM   #12
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Currently, 1435mm gauge rail network is proposed for Iceland.

Details of heavy rail (mainline railway) networks in Iceland:
• Track gauge: 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) standard gauge
• Minimum radius: 150m
• Loading gauge: small (slightly smaller than British W6a)
• Routes:
1. Reykjavík - Borgarnes - Blönduós - Akureyri - Egilsstađir - Höfn - Selfoss - Reykjavík
2. Reykjavík - Keflavík
• Maximum speed: 100-120km/h
• Right-/left hand running: Left-hand running
• Overhead voltage: unknown
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Old December 9th, 2010, 02:25 AM   #13
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I would build a Maglev-system. Faster, less maintenance required, less problems with inclinations.
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Old December 10th, 2010, 05:29 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Obelixx View Post
I would build a Maglev-system. Faster, less maintenance required, less problems with inclinations.
Maglev is too expensive.
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Old December 10th, 2010, 06:19 PM   #15
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I would not say. It requires less tunnels and bridges as maglev trains can better go over hillary terrain.
And especially tunnels are very expensive!
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Old December 13th, 2010, 12:35 PM   #16
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It would indeed be perfect as Iceland has the luxury of starting a new system to scratch while in other Nordic countries there is already infrastructure to support more use of conventional rails.
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Old December 15th, 2010, 02:44 PM   #17
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This is in fact the problem of introducing Maglev-systems.
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Old December 17th, 2010, 07:32 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Obelixx View Post
I would not say. It requires less tunnels and bridges as maglev trains can better go over hillary terrain.
And especially tunnels are very expensive!
Iceland is too small and too cold for maglev.
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Old December 17th, 2010, 07:36 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ingenioren View Post
It would indeed be perfect as Iceland has the luxury of starting a new system to scratch while in other Nordic countries there is already infrastructure to support more use of conventional rails.
In Iceland, very small loading gauge necessary.
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Old December 23rd, 2010, 08:57 PM   #20
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If maglev ever becomes cost-competitive with regular rail technology, it sure would be a good fit for Iceland (at least the long-distance lines) for its ability to handle steep grades better than the conventional steel-on-steel rail technology. It would allow straighter routes and somewhat less tunneling.

Quote:
Iceland is too small and too cold for maglev.
Is maglev technology badly affected by temperature? It was my understanding that it was actually less affected by temperature swings than conventional rail (because the steel in conventional rail tracks contracts and expands with the temperature). Besides, Iceland doesn't get extremely cold.
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