Fehmarn Belt Fixed Link
Map showing the planned Fehmarn Belt Fixed Link in the Danish–German highway system
|Official name||Femernbælt Link|
|Maintained by||Femern A/S|
The Fehmarn Belt Fixed Link (Danish: Femern Bælt-forbindelsen, German: Fehmarnbelt-Querung) is a planned immersed tunnel that is proposed to connect the Danish island of Lolland with the German island of Fehmarn, crossing the 18 km (11 mi) wide Fehmarn Belt in the Baltic Sea, providing a direct link between northern Germany and Lolland, and thence to the Danish island of Zealand and Copenhagen, becoming the world's longest road and rail tunnel, potentially a major connection between Central Europe and Scandinavia, and shortening the travel time between Denmark and Germany to just 10 minutes by car and seven minutes by train.
The tunnel will replace a well-used ferry service from Rødby and Puttgarden, currently operated by Scandlines, a route known in German as the Vogelfluglinie and in Danish as Fugleflugtslinjen. literally "the bird flight line" (in both languages this an idiom for “direct line”, akin to the English as the crow flies).
Fehmarn is connected by the Fehmarn Sound Bridge with the German mainland, and Lolland is connected by a tunnel and bridges with Zealand via the island of Falster, connecting with the Swedish mainland via the Øresund Bridge. Although there is also a fixed connection between Zealand and Germany, via the Great Belt, Funen, and Jutland, the Fehmarn Belt Fixed Link would provide a more convenient and faster direct road and rail route from Hamburg to Copenhagen, Sweden, and Norway, comprising a four-lane motorway and two electrified rail tracks.
Initially, a bridge was proposed. Feasibility studies had been carried out in the late 1990s, and from as early as 2000 German and Danish transportation engineers were actively planning a fixed link bridge across the Fehmarn Strait, carrying both a four-lane highway and two electrified rail tracks. This solution was for years regarded the most likely scheme and detailed plans were drawn up and contracts awarded. The Fehmarn Belt bridge was originally expected to be completed by 2018,
The bridge would have been about 20 kilometres (12 mi) long, comprising three cable-stayed spans. The four pillars in the substructure of the bridge would probably have been about 280 metres (920 ft) tall, with vertical clearance about 65 metres (213 ft) above sea level, allowing ocean-going ships to pass beneath it. The design of the bridge links was being carried out by the Dissing+Weitling company for its aesthetical features and by the COWI and Obermeyer companies for their civil engineering aspects. The proposed design would have carried four motorway lanes and two railway tracks.
Although originally conceived as a bridge, Femern A/S (the Danish state-owned company tasked with designing and planning the link) announced in December 2010 that a tunnel was preferable, and the tunnel idea received support from a large majority of the Danish parliament in January 2011. By 2012, therefore, the completion date had been pushed back to 2021, and in 2014 was estimated to be 2024, and then in 2015 delayed further to 2028.
In February 2015, the draft bill for the construction was introduced to the Danish parliament, and the Danish government submitted an application for DKK 13 billion (€1.7 billion) in EU grants, supported by Germany and Sweden. In June 2015, €589m of EU funding was awarded to Denmark by the European Commission under its Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) scheme, allowing the tunnel project to go ahead. In March 2017 the operating company announced the sign-up of subcontractors for the project.
On 13 December 2018, the European Court ruled in favour of Scandlines in case T‑630/15 regarding state aid.
When the Danish Folketing (parliament) ratified the project in March 2009, its cost was estimated at 42 billion DKK (€5 billion). This cost included €1.5 billion for other improvements such as electrifying and improving 160 kilometres (99 mi) of railway from single-track to double-track on the Danish side. In 2011 this was increased to a total of €5.5 billion (at 2008 prices). On top of this there will be cost of at least €1 billion for the German rail connection which will be paid by the German government. An expected EU subsidy of between €600 million and €1.2 billion will be given. Construction estimates cover the period from 1 April 1998 until the opening of the fixed link in 2021, a timing which has been postponed.
New bridges at Fehmarn Sound (1 kilometre (0.62 mi) long) and Storstrøm (slightly more than 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) long) are needed. According to the treaty, the bridges did not have to be replaced. But a replacement of the Storstrom Bridge has been contracted and is slated for completion in 2022. The double-track railway construction in Germany may be delayed by up to seven years, according to the treaty.
The Fehmarn Belt Fixed Link and its double-tracks will shorten the rail journey from Hamburg to Copenhagen from four hours and 58 minutes to three hours and 15 minutes. According to current plans there will be one passenger train and two freight trains in each direction per hour. Hence, there will probably be congestion and delays on the German side of the bridge, with this much traffic, if the track widening is delayed.
The highway between Copenhagen and Hamburg is already a motorway except for 25 kilometres (16 mi) (35 miles (56 km) prior to 2008) in Germany. The rest is a two-lane expressway. The highway will be widened to a motorway except where it meets the Fehmarn Sound bridge.
This project is comparable in size to that of the Øresund Bridge or the Great Belt Bridge. According to a report released on 30 November 2010 by Femern A/S (a subsidiary of the Danish state-owned Sund & Bælt Holding A/S), the company tasked with designing and planning the link between Denmark and Germany, the corridor for the alignment of the link has now been determined and will be sited in a corridor running east of the ferry ports of Puttgarden and Rødbyhavn.
The Fehmarn Belt Fixed Link will be financed by state-guaranteed loans, which will be paid by the road and train tolls. Denmark will be solely responsible for guaranteeing the funding of the project at an estimated cost of 35 billion kroner or (€4.7 billion) and German participation will be limited to the development of the land-based facilities on the German side. The government of Denmark will own the fixed link outright, will be allowed to keep tolls after the loans have been repaid, and will enjoy any employment opportunities at the toll station. The fees are also planned to pay for the Danish railway upgrading.
The European Union has designated this project as one of the 30 prioritised transport infrastructure projects (TEN-T) and will support the project with a contribution, probably around 5–10%, amounting to an expected €600 million to €1.2 billion. The project is expected to have 5% rate of return for Europe.
Underwater tunnels are either bored or immersed: tunnel boring is common for deepwater tunnels longer than 4 or 5 kilometres (3.1 mi), while immersion is commonly used for tunnels which cross relatively shallow waters. Immersion involves dredging a trench across the seafloor, laying a foundation bed of sand or gravel, and then lowering precast concrete tunnel sections into the excavation and covering it with a protective layer of backfill several metres thick.
The Fehmarn Belt will be crossed by an immersed tunnel, at the planned 17.6 km (10.9 mi) long the longest ever constructed, and will surpass the 13.5 km (8.4 mi) Marmaray Tunnel of the Bosphorus, Turkey. On 30 November 2010, Denmark's Femern A/S project manager announced it had selected immersed tunnel design submitted by the Ramboll, Arup, and TEC consortium. According to the senior project managers, as well as being the world's longest immersed tunnel, it will be the world's longest combined road and rail tunnel; the world's longest under water tunnel for road; the deepest immersed tunnel with road and rail traffic; and the second deepest concrete immersed tunnel. The size of the project is about five times the tunnel part of the Øresund Link between Denmark and Sweden, currently the longest immersed concrete tunnel.
The deepest section of the Fehmarn Belt Trench is 35 metres (115 ft) and the tunnel sections will be about 10 metres (33 ft) high, thus the dredging barges will need to be capable of reaching depths of over 45 metres (148 ft). Dredging will produce a trench some 40–50 metres (130–160 ft) wide and 12–15 metres (39–49 ft) deep. These parameters give a total of some 20,000,000 cubic metres (710,000,000 cu ft) of soils to be dredged. Conventional dredging equipment can only reach to a depth of about 25 metres (82 ft). To excavate the middle portion of the Fehmarn trench – deeper than 25 metres (82 ft) below the water's surface – will likely require grab dredgers and trailing suction hopper dredgers.
The proposed tunnel would be 17.6 kilometres (10.9 mi) long, 40 metres (130 ft) deep below the surface of the sea, and would carry a double-track railway. Arguments brought forward in favour of a tunnel include its starkly reduced environmental impact, its independence from weather conditions, as crosswinds can have considerable impact on trucks and trailers, especially on a north–south bridge. A bored tunnel was deemed too expensive.
The precast concrete tunnel sections will have a rectangular cross-section that is about 40 metres (130 ft) wide and 10 metres (33 ft) high, containing four separate passageways (two for cars and two for trains), plus a small service passageway: There will be separate Northbound and Southbound tubes for vehicles, each 11 metres (36 ft) wide, each with two travel lanes and a breakdown lane; while the Northbound and Southbound passageways for trains will be 6 metres (20 ft) wide each and about 10 metres (33 ft) high; the service passageway will be 3 metres (9.8 ft) wide; the standoff space between each "tube" will vary, but the overall width will be 41.2 metres (135 ft). The single-level, sectional arrangement of the two road and rail tubes side-by- side – with the road West and the railway East – coincide with the arrangement of the existing road and rail infrastructure and requires no weaving to connect.
- On 29 June 2007 an interim agreement was reached in Berlin between the Danish and German authorities (represented by their transport ministers) to proceed with the construction of the fixed link. Details provided by Danmarks Radio stated that the Fehmarn Belt Fixed Link would run 19 km (12 mi) from a point about 2 km (1 mi) east of Rødby in Denmark to Puttgarden on the island of Fehmarn which was already connected by bridge to the German mainland. Construction would start in 2015 and was expected to be completed by the end of 2021.
- On 3 September 2008, the ministers of transportation from Denmark and Germany, Carina Christensen and Wolfgang Tiefensee, signed the treaty for the construction of the Fehmarn Belt Fixed Link at a ceremony held in Copenhagen. On 26 March 2009 the construction was ratified by the Danish parliament, and the German parliament approved the scheme on 18 June 2009.
- In December 2010, it was announced that a tunnel would be used rather than a bridge, as this would present fewer construction risks than a cable-stayed bridge that would be pushing the limits of the technology. The cost and the construction time would be roughly the same.
- In January 2011, a large majority of the parties in the Danish Parliament voted to support a tunnel solution. However, national approval procedures in both countries needed to be completed and, in Germany, this involved the application for a plan approval process. In Denmark, the project would require the passage in parliament of a Construction Act.
- On 16 December 2011, the German government announced it was postponing development of the railway link to the Fehmarn Tunnel until after 2015. According to a report in Der Nordschlewiger, German Traffic Minister Peter Ramsauer had decided to reduce planned government investment in new infrastructure in Germany by 25 per cent due to the economic crisis. It was not immediately clear what effect the postponement would have on the overall Fehmarn Belt Fixed Link project.
- In October 2013, the tunnel company applied to German authorities for approval according to environmental law and other laws of Germany and EU. This was rejected in 2015 because new legislation that appeared in the meantime wasn't accounted for.
- On 25 February 2015, the bill for the Construction Act for the Fehmarnbelt link was introduced in the Danish parliament.
- On 26 February 2015, the Danish Ministry of Transport submitted an application for an EU grant of DKK 13 billion (€1.7 billion) for the project's construction phase. The application was accompanied by letters of support from the Swedish Minister for Infrastructure, Anna Johansson, and the German Transport Minister, Alexander Dobrindt. In addition, the German state government of Schleswig-Holstein as well as a wide range of business organisations from the Danish, Swedish, and German sides sent statements supporting the application. EU finally approved DKK 6.92 billion in total for the tunnel and the connecting Danish railway, around 15% of the cost. Further support can be expected for the German connecting railway and in general after 2021.
- On 13 June 2016, the tunnel company applied again to German authorities for approval, based on an updated application of 11,000 pages adopted to new legal principles that appeared since last application. It is expected that this process is ended in 2018. It expected that two further years will be spent in court processes, since political objectors have stated they will appeal the authority approval.
- On 28 December 2018, the German authority decided to approve the project.
- On 6 February 2019, Femern A/S received German plan approval for the tunnel. This has been appealed to the Federal Administrative Court by political objectors.
- February 2019: DB Netz AG submits a document to the BMVI detailing variants of the rail connection to the tunnel. The approval process for the railway will need approval by the German national parliament.
The crossing has been discussed for more than 30 years. At the beginning of that period, before the reunification of Germany, the only possible link was towards Hamburg, as going towards East Germany was not a viable option. Although times have changed and Europe has been politically and economically reshaped in the meantime, the link direction has stayed the course. This has been highly criticized, as connecting the two capitals of Copenhagen and Berlin and, on a larger scale, a link from Scandinavia to Poland and the eastern part of Europe, would make much more sense in perspective as it would open Denmark to a whole new market. A Gedser–Rostock Bridge, about 50 km (31 mi) further east, has been proposed as an alternative or to complement the Fehmarn Belt Fixed Link, as this would connect eastern Germany including Berlin and places further south with Scandinavia.
There have been objections from local people in Germany, both from those fearing the loss of jobs in connection with the present busy ferry traffic, and from environmental protectionists who believed that wildlife would suffer from the construction of the originally conceived bridge, and that residents would suffer from the increase in traffic, especially the planned freight trains which would move from the present Greater Belt–Schleswig route.
Detractors believe that the construction of the fixed link and the resulting shift of cargo transport away from the existing ferry would mean a radical decrease in ferry operation and the loss of jobs. At the same time, employment connected to construction works would be only short-term. Furthermore, it is claimed that the project might be economically unjustified, as predictions of passenger traffic and goods transport may be overestimated and there is a considerable risk that the investment will not be recouped. Some suggest that the original plans were drawn up during the Cold War and that since then traffic flow has changed profoundly, meaning that construction of a fixed link is no longer justified.
There is also criticism on the increase of noise for some residents and visitors when moving the freight train traffic from the Jutland-Schleswig route to this route. These critics have been the loudest and they have been able to get a realignment of the planned railway route.
There are complaints from some Swedish politicians over the long train travel times between Copenhagen and Hamburg and the lack of night trains, which are impractical to load aboard the ferries. This makes train travel, for example from Stockholm to Brussels, impossible unless one night is spent in a hotel en route. The Fehmarn Belt Fixed Link would improve this considerably and reduce the number of passenger train journeys, thus benefiting the environment.
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- Official website
- (in Danish) Femern Bælt, Danish traffic ministry
- (in Danish) Pictures, Danish traffic ministry
- on YouTube
- Information on the Fehmarn Belt Fixed Link on the website of the Greens/EFA in the European Parliament
- Dynamic map comparing proposed bridge and tunnel routes
- Ramboll's Project Manager blogs about the tunnel
- Ramboll's project description of the tunnel