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Copenhagen S-Bane transition to automated operation


DSB, the Danish rail operator, is to convert Copenhagen's commuter network, the S-Bane, into a fully automated system underpinned by state-of-the-art digital train control technology. 

The 172km S-Bane is integral to Copenhagen’s public transport system. A stand-alone network serving 84 stations, its routes extend from the city centre to the surrounding suburbs and commuter districts further afield, providing interchanges with national mainline services and the Copenhagen Metro.

The decision to convert the S-Bane to Grade of Automation 4 (GoA4, meaning the system is capable of safely operating without onboard staff) takes advantage of the recent upgrades to the network’s signalling technology to Communications Based Train Control Supervised Train Operation (STO), and the planned introduction of a new generation of trains to replace a fleet that is nearing retirement.

Given the technical, operational and organisational challenges, European law mandates an independent body oversees the processes for managing hazards and evaluating safety risks.



As the appointed Assessment Body (AsBo), Ricardo will monitor the programme from design to operation, compiling Safety Assessment Reports and other documentation required by the National Safety Authority before it can issue phased approvals of the system.

The programme will also involve significant organisational changes with the transition of infrastructure and operational staff from Banedanmark, the national infrastructure manager, to DSB. This will eventually take the form of a new organisation, currently referred to as Future S-network, to oversee the migration period and eventual driverless operation. 

Our experts will therefore work closely with DSB’s project teams throughout the project. Our experience of performing the equivalent role on Denmark’s adoption of ETCS technology on its national mainline network, for example, has shown how migrating from existing systems to new automated processes requires robust Approvals strategies, clearly communicated transition arrangements, and a consistent method for capturing compliance evidence that is understood by project teams and the supply chain alike. 

We will also provide valuable continuity as the project progresses, ensuring roles, responsibilities and requirements are understood as other suppliers, partners and stakeholders join and leave.  

Central to the process will be the Ricardo Compliance Tool, a cloud-based platform that will limit delays, reduce the administrative burden on the client, and ensure a smooth pathway to compliance.



Once fully automated – all lines are anticipated to be under GoA4 operation by 2037 - the S-Bane will be one of the largest and fastest driverless mass-transit systems in the world. It will then be able to transition from a timetabled service to a system offering ‘metro-style’ frequencies managed by state-of-the-art control technology to ensure safety and reliability.


DSB (Danske Statsbaner)

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Assessment Body

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Denmark, Copenhagen

Assurance and testing
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