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Major infrastructure projects lead to growth in Scandinavia/Nordic region

First publishedin Aggregates Business Europe
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Thomas Concrete Group opens new plant
Thomas Concrete Group has opened a new plant in Herby, Stockholm

Railways, housing, roads and airports are among infrastructure projects that are leading to growth in Scandinavia and the Nordic region. Patrick Smith reports.

Big infrastructure projects are usually a sign of growth, and this means Scandinavia is in an enviable position. Housing, roads, airports, railways, and even a town, are high on the construction agenda, and such investments are always good news for the aggregates industry.

Most of the national economies are also looking good, with growth in the three kingdoms that make up Scandinavia -  Denmark, Norway, and Sweden - and in the Faroe Islands (a Danish overseas territory) along with Nordic neighbours Iceland and Finland.

Jonas Staaf, business director for Hub West within Volvo CE sales region EMEA, was asked how his company is finding the market at present.

“The market in Europe has been developing stronger in 2017 than we anticipated. To mention a few markets, Great Britain, in particular, has been more resilient to the Brexit uncertainties than initially expected and Sweden is also running at very high levels,” he says, turning to the demand for equipment.

“Yes, in many markets in Northern Europe we are either back on levels that are close to or exceeding those prior to the 2008 financial crisis.

“For Scandinavia, big infrastructure projects like Bypass Stockholm and a general upturn in house-building are driving the need for equipment throughout the supply chain.

“We see strong development across the whole range of Volvo CE equipment. It is also good to see that some of the most recently released products like the EWR150E short radius wheeled excavator has been well-received by our customers.

“The well-developed dealer network in Northern Europe continues to be one of our strongest assets. Local presence, long-term relationships with customers and timely access to services have been and will continue to be important factors in helping our customers to succeed.

“We are also seeing that our efforts to broaden our offering in the Volvo services area is starting to establish itself in the marketplace. For example, this includes services like ECO operator training, fuel reports, productivity optimisation and a family of assist functions based on the on-board Volvo Co-Pilot touchscreen.”

After years of preparation and design, blasting and rock moving for the Stockholm bypass, Sweden’s largest infrastructure project, began south of the city in 2016. It sets in train a decade-long project that will create a new half-ring dual three-lane motorway for the city, 20km long. With most of it deep underground, it will also be one of Europe’s largest ever road tunnels.

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Volvo CE WLO_L260
Volvo Construction Equipment says the market in Europe has exceeded expectations in 2017

The scheme aims to transform a growing congestion problem for Sweden’s capital, with the major tunnelling works expected to continue until 2022. After that comes the mechanical and electrical and ventilation works and installation of the control systems, signalling, lighting and signage. The current opening schedule is mid-2026.

Meanwhile, also in Stockholm, Thomas Concrete Group’s new plant in Heby can produce enough pre-cast, reinforced double-walls and slabs to build approximately 4,000 new apartments/year in the Stockholm area, where there is a severe housing shortage.

It is the result of an approximate100 million SEK (€10 million) investment and will provide about 35 new jobs.

Prefabricated double-walls and slabs are tailor-made in the plant to meet specific applications, with electrical installations, wiring and pipework all put in place on an assembly line before the casting process begins. After curing in a hardening chamber, the prefabricated elements are then delivered to the building site, where they are mounted into a site-cast concrete frame. This construction method is rational, simple and fast, giving shorter build times than conventional methods.

“As a Swedish-owned family company that operates internationally, it is still natural for us to invest in Sweden,” says Hans Karlander, CEO of Thomas Concrete Group

“Our growing home market is very important. In recent years, we have strengthened our position in the major Swedish cities of Stockholm and Gothenburg, as well as investing in a number of new ready-mixed concrete plants in the US, Germany and Poland. The group’s strategy is continued growth with a strong focus on customer service.”

And following the opening of the new 6km Citybanan cross-city rail link in Stockholm in July there are plenty more mega projects in the pipeline, some even more ambitious. All will need cement, aggregates and the huge construction equipment that goes with them.

For example, another Swedish concrete products manufacturer S:t Eriks, and German company PCM Rail.One, have initiated a collaboration to deliver high quality fixed track systems to future tunnel and bridge projects for high-speed railways in Sweden and the Nordic region.

“For us, cooperation with Rail.One means a lot. We will be even broader in our rail range,” says Fredrik Adielson, business developer Rail and Traffic at S:t Eriks.

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The graph shows the total revenue from aggregates in Norway in the last ten years (green columns) and produced tonnes (blue line), with a total of over 80 million tonnes with about 6 billion NOK (€640 million) in revenue. The figure is taken from the mineral statistics presented annually by the Directorate of Mining and Norwegian Geological Survey

Like the other Scandinavian countries, Norway has been investing heavily in high-speed railways in recent years, and modernisation of the Østfold line is part of the InterCity programme, and is one of the country’s largest railway improvement projects.

According to the Norwegian Mineral Industry (Norsk Bergindustri), the aggregate industry in Norway is experiencing growth and a positive outlook for the future.

The government has started numerous new, large infrastructure projects in the last couple of years, and several more are in the pipeline, while private usage of aggregates has increased.

The population of the Østfold region is growing and it is crucial for the infrastructure to be able to support a future increase in passenger and freight transport, hence the railway plans.

The National Transport Plan 2014–2023 estimates the double-track section from Oslo to Seut near Fredrikstad should be complete by 2024, followed by the section to Sarpsborg by 2026 and on to Halden in 2030.

The project will provide increased capacity for InterCity passenger and freight transport, to ensure adequate punctuality, frequency and journey times. The route currently carries around 2.5 million rail passengers/year, and has severe capacity issues.

“Compact towns and villages enable rapid and environmentally friendly regional development in Østfold. The combination of rail improvement and hub development makes this more than just an infrastructure project,” says Terje Bygland Nikolaisen, managing director of COWI in Norway.

The new InterCity concept that has been adopted provides for stations in all Østfold towns and for train speeds of up to 250km/hour where possible.

The ambition on the Intercity route is to carry passengers from Oslo to Halden in an hour, and from Oslo to Fredrikstad in 45 minutes. To achieve this, speeds must be increased between and through the towns.

COWI and Multiconsult are cooperating with LPO architects, and COWI says the main assignment should be completed in four years, but if the options are exercised, the work could continue until the whole project is completed in 2030.

Denmark is also investing billions in high-speed railways to link the different regions more closely together, and again COWI is involved in various Danish rail projects, also aimed at bringing journey times between the biggest Danish cities down to the magic hour.

Meanwhile, it was recently reported that entrepreneur Peter Vesterbacka is looking to raise funding for a railway that would connect Tallinn, the Estonian capital, with Espoo and Helsinki Airport in Finland.

A previous study put the cost of an 85km tunnel between the two centres at an estimated €9-13 billion.

Vesterbacka says that such a connection could open for traffic in 2023-2024 with much of the funds coming from China.

However, in Kiruna, Sweden, which is built around Europe’s largest underground iron ore mine, the state-owned LKAB mining company has started to move the town, which was founded just over 100 years ago. It is Sweden’s northernmost city, lying about 150km inside the Arctic Circle.

LKAB’s activities have seen it digging increasingly deeper at the site, thus increasing the risk of Kiruna slipping into a sinkhole.

While local residents have known about the plan to move them and many of the town’s buildings since 2004, it became a reality in May when the first historic houses were transported to the new site, 3km to the east of the present site.

LKAB says that around 6,000 people will need to move, as it is necessary for LKAB to claim more land. The entire area encompasses 3,000 homes and approximately 450,000m² of public and commercial premises.

By 2035, the current city centre will have been phased out and the new, developed centre will be in place.

Companies in this article

Thomas Concrete Group
Volvo CE

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