Fehmarn Belt Fixed Link
|Fehmarn Belt Fixed Link|
|Official name||Femernbælt Link|
|Maintained by||Femern A/S|
The Fehmarn Belt Fixed Link (Danish: Femern Bælt-forbindelsen, German: Fehmarnbelt-Querung) is an immersed tunnel (in earlier design iterations, a bridge) that is proposed to connect the German island of Fehmarn with the Danish island of Lolland. This would cross over the Fehmarn Belt in the Baltic Sea – 18 km (11 mi) wide – hence providing a direct link by railroad and highway between northern Germany and Lolland, and thence to the Danish island of Zealand. This route is known in German as the Vogelfluglinie and in Danish as the Fugleflugtslinjen (literally, "bird flight line", with a meaning similar to the English term "as the crow flies").
Fehmarn Island is already connected by bridge with the German mainland, and Lolland is already connected by a tunnel and bridges with Zealand over the island Falster. Furthermore, Zealand is already connected with the Swedish coast via the Øresund Bridge. Although there is already a fixed bridge-tunnel connection between Zealand and Germany, using the detour over Great Belt, the Fehmarn Belt fixed link would provide an easier and speedier route from Germany to Zealand, Sweden, and Norway.
The Fehmarn Belt Fixed Link was tentatively expected to be completed in the year 2018, but the date has been changed to 2021. Originally conceived as a bridge, in December 2010 Femern A/S announced that a tunnel was preferable to a bridge as this would present fewer construction risks, although the financial cost would be broadly similar. The Danish government approved the project by a large parliamentary majority in January 2011, although a final decision was not planned to be made until 2012.[not in citation given]
Beginning at least as early as 2000, German and Danish transportation planners pushed for a "fixed link" – either a bridge or a tunnel – across the Fehmarn Strait. A bridge was widely regarded, for years, as the most likely scheme, and it was somewhat surprising when the Danish project planners selected an immersed tunnel design in late 2010.
When the Danish Folketing (parliament) ratified the project in March 2009, its cost was estimated at DKK 42 bn (EUR 5 bn). This cost included 1.5 billion euro for other improvements such as electrifying and improving 160 km of railway from single-track to double-track on the Danish side. In 2011 this was increased to a total of EUR 5.5 bn (at 2008 prices), although this will attract an expected EU subsidy of EUR 0.6–1.2 bn. Construction estimates cover the period from 1 April 2009 until the opening of the fixed link in 2020.
New bridges at Fehmarn Sound (1 km) and Storstrøm (slightly more than 3 km long) would be needed. However according to the treaty, the bridges do not have to be replaced An upgrade of the Storstrom Bridge is however planned. Also, 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, Germany to Copenhagen from four hours and 45 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 km in Germany (35 km before 2008). The rest is a two-lane expressway. The highway will be widened to a motorway except for at 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 DKK 35 billion or EUR 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 EUR 0.6–1.2 bn.
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 rivers or harbours. Immersion involves dredging a trench across the seafloor, laying a foundation bed of sand or gravel, 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 17.6km long the longest ever constructed. 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 and the tunnel sections will be about 10 metres high, thus the dredging barges will need to be capable of reaching depths of over 45 metres. Dredging will produce a trench some 40–50 metres wide and 12–15 metres deep. These parameters give a total of some 20 million cubic metres (m³) of soils to be dredged. Conventional dredging equipment can only reach to a depth of about 25 metres. To excavate the middle portion of the Fehmarn trench – deeper than 25m below the water's surface – will likely require grab dredgers and trailing suction hopper dredgers.
The proposed tunnel would be 17.6 km long, 40m 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 wide and 10 metres 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 wide, each with two travel lanes and a breakdown lane; while the Northbound and Southbound passageways for trains will be 6 metres wide (each) and about 10 metres high; the service passageway will be 3 meters wide; the standoff space between each "tube" will vary, but the overall width will be 41.2 metres. 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.
Initially, a bridge was proposed. The bridge would be about 20 km long, comprising three identical cable-stayed spans, with each span being 724 metres (2,375 ft) long. The four pillars in the substructure of the bridge would probably have been about 280 m (919 ft) tall. The vertical clearance would have been about 65 m (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.
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 bridges
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, and it was expected that all appropriate legislation would be completed by 2013. Construction of the tunnel was planned to begin in 2014 and expected to last until 2020.
However, 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.
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 believe that wildlife will suffer from the construction of the crossing, especially as the originally conceived bridge.
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 wasn't 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.
Critics believed that a bridge would create one more barrier for the water exchange to the Baltic Sea, which is dependent on the inflow of water from the North Sea. This oxygenated and salty water from the North Sea, crucial for marine ecosystems, reaches the Baltic Sea via the Skagerrak and the Kattegat. Studies carried out by Germany's Federal Agency for Nature Conservation demonstrated that about 70 percent of the water exchange between the North Sea and the Baltic Sea takes place through the Fehmarn strait. It is said that creating additional obstacles would further restrict the supply, causing deterioration of water quality and an increase in undesirable algae species on the Baltic coastlines. However, it was shown that no such additional obstacle appeared after the construction of the Great Belt bridges and the Øresund bridge.
Furthermore, the bridge would have been situated on one of the most important bird migration hotspots, and potentially influence rare and endangered bird species. The construction works of the bridge would affect already sharply regressing populations of marine mammals, such as seals and porpoises. In order to predict precisely far reaching consequences of the construction for the sensitive marine ecosystems, additional research was scheduled for 2009–2012.
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 for the bridge 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.
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