North Bothnia Line: accelerating Sweden’s shift to a low carbon future

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Discover how our design expertise is shaping part of the North Bothnia Line – a new railway for Sweden’s northeastern coast. 

Currently under construction, the Norrbotniabanan or North Bothnia Line – is a new 270-kilometre railway on Sweden’s Norrland coast.  

The North Bothnia Line is one of the largest transportation projects in Europe in terms of investment cost, providing numerous benefits both locally and nationally.  

As well as connecting Umeå and Luleå, two of the country’s largest northern cities, it will provide a vital new freight link between the region and the wider European rail network. 

On behalf of the client, the Swedish Transport Administration (Trafikverket), our local experts in Sweden are working closely with AECOM’s rail, structures, geotechnical, cost, sustainability and digital specialists in Spain, the UK and across the global business on the design of this major new rail link. 

A video introduction to the North Bothnia Line

What is AECOM’s role on the North Bothnia Line? 

As the world’s top transportation design firm, the full scope of our global capability is available to anyone who needs it, wherever they are based.  

We are bringing together approximately 180 technical and project management experts from around the world – the majority from AECOM – to deliver the detailed design for the 30 kilometres of rail link which runs from Gryssjön to Robertsfors. 

This work, which spans and includes the preparation of tender documents for two main construction contracts, includes the design of 21 bridges, including two fauna overpasses, as well as all civil engineering works required to build the railway and nearby roads.  

A new tool for linking software platforms 

Our Digital AECOM specialists have been instrumental in making both the design process and collaboration between multi-disciplinary teams as smooth as possible. 

The use of multiple software platforms or common data environments (CDEs) is a common barrier to collaboration on many major infrastructure projects. Because platforms are not integrated, team communication and coordination can suffer, slowing the design process down.  

To solve this problem on the North Bothnia Line, we created an in-house tool that enhances coordination between multi-disciplinary and multi-vendor software BIM models. Not only can all teams use the tool to access all design iterations and data within both, but they can rely on the tool to notify them when updates have been made.  

Additionally, we are using ArcGis Online and its mobile application to monitor the geotechnical and environmental ground investigation works in close to real-time; the tool is also accessible to the ground investigation contractor, who updates the status of the works, but also to the client and other disciplines working on the project. 

Connecting datasets

Most infrastructure projects in Sweden are built in line with the quality requirements in the Allmän Material och Arbetsbeskrivning (AMA) specification guidelines. AMA is a series of reference documents which simplify and standardise the process of formulating the material and execution requirements for all parts of construction work. It was a project requirement, therefore, to tag the BIM models with AMA codes in order to extract the exact quantities for the bill of quantities and to produce the technical specifications. 

We were able to then share this information with our cost team helping them create accurate construction cost estimates (alongside the benchmarks within CostX, AECOM’s global cost estimate tool). The data is also being used in an innovative way to find ways of reducing the project’s carbon impact. 

Reducing carbon in design

The Swedish Transport Administration has a publicly stated goal to reduce the project’s carbon footprint by 30 per cent for the whole design, construction and operation stages. We appointed a dedicated Sustainability Lead – who is now working with a team of sustainability and environmental consultants and as well as Trafikverket’s own sustainability specialists – to help the client meet this ambitious target.  

By taking the AMA specifications mentioned above and aligning them with Trafikverket’s climate impact tool and its library of emissions factors, we can estimate the climate impact of the 30-kilometre stretch of rail line.   

By using these estimates, we are conducting regular exchanges and workshops with all disciplines to identify opportunities to optimise the design and investigate the use of low-carbon materials or processes to be implemented during construction. 

Creating a sustainable legacy for the region

Once complete, the new railway will bring considerable benefits to residents, halving journey times between Umeå and Luleå (compared to bus and car). It will also strengthen freight capacity to and from northern Sweden, home to much of the country’s goods production, as well as the Norrbotten area, where more than 90 per cent of the EU’s iron ore is mined.  

Notably, the line will be fully electrified and powered by renewable energy. By shifting transport off roads and onto the rail network, the North Bothnia Line will reduce carbon emissions by an estimated 80,000 tonnes per year, helping to accelerate Sweden’s transition to a low carbon future.