In an interview with Civil Beat, Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle discussed the merits of a company awarded a $1.1 billion contract for the city’s rail project.

AnsaldoHonolulu, a joint venture of AnsaldoBreda and AnsaldoSTS, won a bid to design, build, operate and maintain the 20-mile line for the first five years after it’s completed.

Carlisle explained that one reason he supports Ansaldo is what the manufacturer accomplished in Denmark.

“We’re doing everything we can to keep the operations as inexpensive as possible, as well as having a very genuine quality product,” the mayor said. “Ansaldo, particularly because of its work on the Copenhagen project — which is, from my understanding, by almost all accolades, one of the top projects on the planet Earth, and they’ve been rehired to continue to do what they’re doing, which is operating it — that leads me to believe that there are impressive reasons to look at that as the type of thing that we’re hoping to get here.”

Carlisle was referring to Alsaldo’s Copenhagen Metro, a driverless system with two rail lines. The metro opened in 2002 and has 22 stations spread out over about 13 miles. There are 34 trains each carrying up to 300 passengers.

But is the Copenhagen Metro everything it’s cracked up to be?

It sure seems to be, even if you discount some of its more, shall we say, suspect accolades.

In 2011 and 2008, Copenhagen’s line won the “World’s Best Metro Award”. The 2008 feat is detailed in an Ansaldo press release, a pro-Copenhagen website and the end-all-be-all for electronic information, Wikipedia.

The awards were presented at the MetroRail Conference, a meeting held to provide “the knowledge and expertise to run a safe, operationally efficient, profitable and technologically advanced metro system,” according to its website.

The conference, of which there have been eight, presents The Metros, awards created to “recognise and celebrate the leaders in the mass transit industry.”

The only problem is that AnsaldoSTS is the event’s lead sponsor.

But hey, that doesn’t necessarily mean the rail line isn’t as good as advertised.

Several websites discussing the best subways, metros and rail lines on the planet include Copenhagen.

The Huffington Post placed the Copenhagen Metro in its first slide of “9 of the World’s Best Subways”. (Huffpo also listed the line as the third most expensive, however.)

Gadling.com, a global travel blog, placed Copenhagen it its “Top Ten Cities With Best Public Transit Systems” in 2010, specifically noting the metro line.

Gadling said: “The Danish capital’s highly regarded public transportation system includes a driverless metro network. The metro’s two lines are fully automated and run 24 hours a day. A major metro extension is due to debut in 2018. Buses and commuter trains fill in the blanks.”

Finally, on the user-generated website VirtualTourist.com, reviews for Copenhagen Metro are mostly positive, such as:

  • “The metro is safe, cheap and quick. The line 2 will take you from the airport to the city center in about 20 minutes,” as written by “marielexoteria” on Dec. 17, 2009.

This isn’t to say that all of Ansaldo’s rail lines have been deemed successful.

Other cites in the U.S. have reported problems with the manufacturer delivering trains late and having trains breakdown frequently. And Ansaldo had its own problems with a different train system in Denmark.

Still, Carlisle wasn’t referring to trains in Boston or Los Angeles — he was talking about Copenhagen. And that appears to be a well-run system, popular with riders.

To see the Copenhagen Metro for yourself, check out the videos below.

Copenhagen Metro

Metro Copenhagen