Norra länken tunnels

machines3 Norra Länken is a motorway tunnel between Karlberg and Ropsten area in Stockholm. The major part of the tunnel between Norrtull and Ropsten is still under construction, planned to be opened by the year 2015. Fortunately, someone left a door open, so let’s have a look inside!

Legal disclaimer: this is a story shared with me by a friend. Entering construction sites is illegal and can be dangerous, do so at your own risk.

The vast work tunnel entrance is scarcely populated at night: the construction goes along the plan, so there’s little need to work in the small hours. The tunnel itself is almost fully completed by now, but the fire control systems, ventilation equipment and general decoration remains to be done. The construction site is guarded by remote video surveillance with motion sensors, and by security guards. Each worker is supposed to wear a badge with a vireless transciever, which makes it possible to identify intruders. Of course, we didn’t know all that, so we entered the tunnel and hoped for the best. The traffic light behind us automatically switched to red. We were in.

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Most tunnel digging sites look like really moist caves. This one was no exception. It is advisable to dress warm, put on a pair of sturdy boots, and to wear a helmet to blend in. At least in theory. In reality, one of us wore rather high heels. One lucky person wore real worker gear, however as we later discovered, it had the name of a competing construction company written all over it. In retrospect, we didn’t blend in at all, but that didn’t stop the exploration trip.

The entrance greeted us with some cool machinery, and a deep, muddy trench.

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The digging equipment was cool, but deeming from the loud noises coming from that end, there was some work in progress there. We decided to cross the trench with muddy water and quite possibly some pirayas at the bottom, and walk to the quiet end of the tunnel.

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Fortunately, the thrench wasn’t extremely wide. Soon, we entered the almost-built part of the tunnel system and set up our camera tripods. If anyone should ask, we were journalists being given a tunnel tour. Yes, at midnight, to avoid disturbance. No, we didn’t bring our press ackreditations with us. And we didn’t speak Swedish very well because we were proud members of foreign press.

Behind each concrete wall of the tunnel, there’s a small maintenance section, used to hide away cables and serving as an escape route.

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Most tunnel sections are complete, but a lot of work remains to be done: wall lining, ventilation, pumps, fire extinguishing and traffic control systems all remain to be completed.

Tunnel workers have already left some graffiti on the walls for our enjoyment:

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Each tunnel has a door about every 100 meters, leading to cable culverts, fire escape and maintentance tunnels. One of them seemed the most intriguing. The door closed behind us. The cellphones lost their reception. Fortunately, the door wasn’t locked – so there was a way to get back.

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However, after ten minutes walking the winding corridors, all sense of direction was lost. We were obviously  heading in a wrong direction – but hey, what a cool site! The wall finish is rough but beautiful: the solid local bedrock is simply covered by concrete, preserving the outline of the original cave.

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This three story high staircase was leading all the way down to an empty bunker – probably a future pump station.

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The bunker was empty except for the blood oil all over the floor.

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Finally, we managed to get out. The ventilation was humming along, a water leak somewhere down the tunnel got exaggerated by the echo and almost sounded like footsteps.

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Some of the floors were apparently not fully build yet.

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We walked some more. And then we heard a car coming. There was not supposed to be any traffic here until roughly two years later, so someone must’ve spotted us. The sound came closer, and there was little place to hide. The journalist story would probably not help us as we were standing five meters below ground, in the middle of the night. So we ran for it, finding a last minute shelter behind a traffic barrier. Ten seconds later, a security car passed by, in the same direction as we came from.

After quick deliberation, we decided to press on forward  hiding in the service tunnel, which was running directly behind the concrete tunnel wall.  Apparently, the place for delibirations (near the blue container above) was ill chosen: we were standing at an intersection, monitored by four cameras pointed straught at us. Just to make sure to announce our presence, we managed to trigger some motion alarm, which started to emit annoying, high pitched noise. We ran into the service tunnel.

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Every step seemed to cause loud echo. We could hear the car driving back and forth along the tunnel, but it didn’t seem to stop. However, soon we started to hear some voices. We ran forward, the exit shouldn’t have been far away.

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And so we ran into a wall. Bummer! The tunnel wasn’t fully built yet, and it ended quite abruptly. Oh well, back to the crossing and the screaming motion alarm.

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Back into the tunnel, with little or no place to hide. Paranoia started to set in, we stopped every minute to check if we were followed. The exit was near!

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Fortunately for us, there were no workers at the tunnel exit – which at the time was basically a deep hole in the ground. We escaped through the scaffolding. Note for the future: avoid wearing high heels next time!

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