Productive construction activities

Posted: 31 May 2006 | | No comments yet

A second pair of tracks through the western suburbs of Oslo is currently under construction to remove the biggest bottleneck on the Norwegian rail network. The first phase was completed in August 2005. The 19.5km section on the Drammen line is the National Rail Administration’s principal investment project this decade.With a total cost of approximately NOK 7 billion, it is currently the largest single on-shore infrastructure project in Norway.

A second pair of tracks through the western suburbs of Oslo is currently under construction to remove the biggest bottleneck on the Norwegian rail network. The first phase was completed in August 2005. The 19.5km section on the Drammen line is the National Rail Administration’s principal investment project this decade.With a total cost of approximately NOK 7 billion, it is currently the largest single on-shore infrastructure project in Norway.

A second pair of tracks through the western suburbs of Oslo is currently under construction to remove the biggest bottleneck on the Norwegian rail network. The first phase was completed in August 2005.

The 19.5km section on the Drammen line is the National Rail Administration’s principal investment project this decade.With a total cost of approximately NOK 7 billion, it is currently the largest single on-shore infrastructure project in Norway.


Today, approximately 340 trains use the section between Skøyen and Asker each day, making it one of the heaviesttrafficked double-track lines in Europe. Fast trains and airport express trains must squeeze between local services which call at 10 intermediate stations.With capacity stretched to the limit, if one train is delayed, this often spreads to other services.As a consequence, punctuality on the Drammen Line has suffered badly in recent years. In some weeks, only 60 to 70 per cent of trains have been on schedule.

The area to the west of Oslo’s city centre has been the principal sector for business development in recent years. 25,000 new jobs have been created in the Lysaker area alone. The E18 motorway, which runs parallel to the railway, suffers from heavy congestion. The Drammen Line is also important in a national perspective, with intermediate and long-distance services being affected by the capacity restrictions and punctuality problems.

The expansion from two to four tracks between Skøyen and Asker will make it possible to improve and expand rail services. Capacity will increase from 12 to 23 trains per hour in each direction, and punctuality will improve as local and fast trains can be separated on different tracks. Between stations, the new tracks will be built for a speed of 160km per hour, cutting travel time between Skøyen and Asker from 20 to 13 minutes.


Work on the 9.5km section between Sandvika and Asker (costing NOK 3.7 billion) began in 2001 and was complete in August 2005. The second phase will see the reconstruction of Lysaker station and a 1.2km section of line in 2006-09. The 6.7km section between Lysaker and Sandvika, which includes a 5.5km rock tunnel, is scheduled for 2007-11.A full development of the final section, between Skøyen and Lysaker, has a marginal cost benefit and is not included in current long-term plans, which cover the period until 2015.

When the Sandvika-Asker section was completed last year, the project passed its half-way mark. This has already eased regularity problems considerably, but to reap full benefits in terms of capacity and travel time, the entire 17.4km section between Lysaker and Asker must be completed.


Carrying out heavy construction work close to existing tracks, where trains run as normal, was a major challenge on this section. This entailed meticulous planning and a wide range of safety measures. This was particularly the case at Asker, where a full remodelling of the station area was necessary in order to integrate the new double track with existing infrastructure. The station was expanded to six tracks per platform.

In Sandvika, two new viaducts carry the quadrupled line over a river in the town centre. There is also a new 100m concrete bridge spanning the E16 motorway. In both cases, work was carried out in several stages, enabling rail traffic to pass during the construction period without disruption.

The new fast lines flank the existing local tracks through Sandvika, before diverging into the first of two tunnels through a cut-and-cover dive-under junction. The rock sections of the two tunnels are 2.7 and 3.6km respectively, with a further 1km of cut-and-cover constructions. Both rock tunnels were blasted and attacked at three fronts. The tunnel cross section is approximately 105m2. Between the tunnels is a 600m section through open terrain. To prevent tunnelling from affecting the ground water table, an extensive and systematic grouting process was stipulated for the full length of both tunnels.

Strict limits on water leaks were imposed based on thorough research of local geology, environment and neighbouring infrastructure. Depending on the surroundings, the limit was set at either 4, 8 or 16 litres per minute in 100m of tunnel. The systematic pre-grouting enabled contractors on the Sandvika-Asker section to meet these demands.Another major challenge was low rock cover. 100m of the tunnel close to Asker town centre has a rock cover from 2.5 to 5m long, necessitating careful blasting methods, extensive rock support and extra vibration monitoring on sensitive buildings above.

Also at this location, a number of special measures have been carried out to limit structure-borne noise from the rail surface. Regulations stipulate a maximum level of 32 dB in buildings above the tunnel. Before the tunnel was completed, short sections of track were purposely built to carry out fullscale simulations in order to determine which measures were the most effective.

Lysaker station

The area around Lysaker is a business district which is rapidly growing. Lysaker is Norway’s third largest station in terms of passenger numbers, and the station is also serviced by vast numbers of buses on a daily basis.

The station will be developed to provide easy transfer between rail, bus and a planned light-rail service to the Fornebu area – the former airport which is now being developed for business. This entails a new bus terminal and taxi stand, a new kiss-and-ride area and improved pedestrian access.

There will be a full reconstruction of the station area, with many of the same challenges encountered at Asker. A new bridge across the Lysaker river will be built in parallel to the existing stone arch bridge from 1913, which is a heritage site. The development also includes a new 50m steel-girder road bridge spanning the railway. Construction, which is currently in its initial stages, will be completed by the summer of 2009.


Planning of the Lysaker-Sandvika section, which includes a 5.5km rock tunnel, is in its final stages. Jernbaneverket’s aim is to invite tenders in the autumn of this year, with construction scheduled to commence in early 2007. Geology on this section closely resembles that of the Sandvika-Asker tunnels, and the National Rail Administration is aiming to build on previous experience from this section to ensure optimal results. The Lysaker-Sandvika section also includes short cut-and-cover sections at either end of the rock tunnel, where space is limited and work has to be carried out close to existing tracks.

Environmental focus

In all phases of planning and construction, Jernbaneverket will work actively to safeguard the environment and minimise negative consequences for the public and surrounding areas. An important tool is a special Environment Programme, which has been developed in close cooperation with local authorities. The Programme stipulates measures and prerequisites for a number of different issues during the construction period, and all contractors are contractually obliged to follow the measures which are outlined. The Environment Programme also stipulates monitoring programmes for a number of factors, such as pore pressure, possible ground subsidence, vibrations, noise etc.

Rail system specifications

Tracks are built for a maximum speed of 160km/h with UIC 60 rails and concrete sleepers. All points are equipped with heating. The contact line is system 20 using a voltage of 16000V with 162/3Hz, the standard in Norway.All main signals are equipped with block telephones. During 2006, the Drammen line will be furnished with GSM-R technology as part of the nationwide Norwegian GSM-R rollout.

Traffic is secured by a SIMIS-C interlocking system from Siemens. This is an electronic interlocking system with automatic train control (FATC). The Siemens VICOS system is used for traffic control.

As the main computers of the centralised interlocking system are able to secure and control up to 2,000 objects, the system will control three stations (Lysaker, Sandvika and Asker) as well as the new double tracks in-between.

Three corridors

The track quadrupling which was carried out in the late 1990s between Oslo and the new airport at Gardermoen, east of the city, has proved a big success.When Lysaker-Asker is completed in 2011, it is hoped that this development will give rise to similar benefits, easing the current transport congestion in the corridor to the west of the capital.Also planned is a similar development of the third main transport corridor leading out from Oslo, namely the Oslo-Ski section of the Østfold line which runs southeast towards Sweden. Construction is scheduled to commence in the first half of the next decade.

New operating model on the way

After the general election in the autumn of 2005, the new government decided that the active rundown of manpower and outsourcing of production activities for Jernbaneverket should be halted. By this time, over 250 of the 1,600 personnel employed in such activities (production and administration) had been laid off. Most left the rail industry altogether which meant a situation could arise in which it would be impossible to find the necessary skills from the private outsourcing market.Jernbaneverket therefore recommended a halt to further lay-offs before a number of aspects linked to the future supply and internal resources were considered (Global Railway Review, issue 3, 2005). There was also a mistaken belief that halting outsourcing and layoffs heralded the effective end of all competitive tendering, but Jernbaneverket does intend to continue putting projects out to tender where economically desirable, as it has done for many years.

After the government decided to stop the outsourcing of production activities, Jernbaneverket began the important process of establishing an operating model in which the state can document effective utilisation of resources.A working group had produced a list of all the various operating models used from 1992 until the present day, and carried out interviews and questionnaires within a closely-defined group of approximately 160 individuals responsible for production activities at management or skilled worker level. The responses were used to evaluate the various organisation models.

From administration to business

In the early 90s, the infrastructure administration was organised as a division of the Norwegian State Railways group under the designation of ‘NSB Banedivisjon’ (NSB track division) and in 1992, a new organisation model was introduced in which production activities were principally under the track and regional managers. The regions were given more responsibility and consequently reinforced by technical and administrative support functions. The track managers were given multi-disciplinary responsibility for the regional managers with responsibility for lines, signalling and switching. This form of railway management was new. The former NSB Engineering – which had previously functioned as a business unit with a track division and a consultancy division – was split up, with the track division going to Baneservice (later hived off as a separate company) and the consultancy division changing name to NSB Ingeniørtjenesten (engineering services) – subsequently becoming BanePartner.

In 1997 – after the creation of the Norwegian National Rail Administration – a new model was established with regional production departments. This was a business model with an organisational split between operations and production. Business plans which, up until then, had formed the basis of supply from operations to administration, were replaced by a contract regime. The enhanced flexibility of this model enables a more efficient use of production activities by using a combination of manpower and machinery to concentrate on the stretches of line which need the most work. The new model was the consequence of a new maintenance strategy. In order for this model to work, the senior management of the Administration laid down the following principles for a new organisation:

  • Clear divisions between administration (track management) and production
  • The administration organisation must have the necessary skills to cover needs, place the necessary orders and check that goods/services supplied conformed to what was ordered
  • The production organisation must have the resources to provide the services that Jernbaneverket needed within operations, value retention and reinvestment

In the year 2000, production activities were split from the regions and named ‘BaneProduksjon’ (track production). In many ways, this was a natural process, given that the production departments had been run on commercial principles more and more since 1997.Work also proceeded to find the ideal organisation of the Administration’s overall production activities. The main strategy was as follows:

  • Baneservice hived off as a limited company in line with previous recommendations
  • BaneProduksjon to have a limited central administration, but all necessary support functions – i.e. finance, contract management, quality/safety – were to be found at the regional units
  • Machinery assets to be split between Baneservice and BaneProduksjon, and the four regional production units set up a shared machinery pool
  • Baneservice and BaneProduksjon allowed to compete internally with safeguards to prevent them supplying parallel tenders on the open market now available to them
  • Long-term strategy to develop the external market and to spin BaneProduksjon off in due course

Targets for BaneProduksjon were determined by an internal board with its own accounts and funding loaned from the Administration at market rates. In other words, the Administration acts as both owner and bank.

The new model includes a revision of targets for production activities.They were previously measured on quality (in terms of defect frequency and uptime) which meant it was the customer and owner – i.e. the Administration via the track management – which was measured.And even though an individual contract could include predetermined quality targets, (e.g. response time to correct defects) profitability and customer satisfaction were the new parameters for the organisation.

In 2003, production activities were distributed to the regions and the number of production areas reduced from four to three, with an operations manager for each. Internal invoicing was scrapped and replaced by a system in which each production unit’s productivity is measured by the number of hours spent on a job. This organisation was in many ways a temporary one for the Administration and efforts continued – with incentives from the authorities – to find a model which could make best economic use of its own resources and the external outsourcing market. In 2004, the aforementioned parliamentary act was passed to outsource all production activities for the National Rail Administration, as described in Global Railway Review, issue 3, 2005.

Human resources

One of the main challenges for the Administration has been to find the correct scale for production activities. The Norwegian climate excludes many types of work in the winter months, which together with competitive tendering of major maintenance and renewal projects – has, due to the budget, led to major over-capacity at certain times of the year.With regard to price and productivity for the work production activities were given under the commercial regimes, a situation was created where a number of personnel had no work. Paradoxically, despite many unfinished jobs, some of the personnel were unemployed. There was general agreement that this was a less than ideal use of resources. Since 1992, all production activities have been grouped under the Administration, and both administrative personnel and production personnel have been scaled down from around 2,100 in 1992 to 1,350 in 2006. This is the level of manning that the Administration must now use to find an efficient operational model.

Pros and cons

During the process of collecting data on the various models, we were able to conclude that the quality of work was gradually getting better and that manning levels and machinery were decreasing.We can also prove an increase in productivity during the same period, with trends moving from being a local – and often sub-optimum perspective in terms of maintenance and renewal – to an overall perspective where national needs drive decision-making and where resources are to be applied. The extensive changes introduced within production activities have led to personnel problems, but working environment studies have also shown that there is a high degree of job satisfaction and low levels of sick leave absence – even in difficult periods for the personnel directly affected by the process.

As we proceed with development of a new operating model, it is vital to use some of the experience gained over the last 10-15 years.We must remember that organisational changes have to be founded on management and personnel. Good planning and a clear strategy for implementation are the keys to achieving a common model and avoid local variants.We must also ensure that the future organisation has the skills it needs to carry out its tasks in line with the intentions of the model as far as possible.We also have an owner who demands that we can document efficient use of resources – a legitimate request we must fulfil, but that will require willingness to change and the skill to achieve this.

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