Intercontinental and transoceanic fixed links

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A fixed link or fixed crossing is a persistent, unbroken road or rail connection across water that uses some combination of bridges, tunnels, and causeways and does not involve intermittent connections such as drawbridges or ferries.[1] A bridge–tunnel combination is commonly used for major fixed links.

This is a list of proposed and actual transport links between continents and to offshore islands. See also list of bridge–tunnels for another list of fixed links including links across rivers, bays and lakes.


Cosmopolitan Railway[edit]

In 1890 William Gilpin first proposed to connect the continents by land via the Cosmopolitan Railway. Significant elements of that proposal, such as the English Channel Tunnel, have been constructed since that era. However, the improvement of the global shipping industry and advent of international air travel has reduced the demand for many intercontinental land connections.

Trans Global Highway[edit]

The Trans-Global Highway[2] is a range of highway systems proposed by futurist Frank X. Didik[3] that would link all six of the inhabited continents. People could drive cars from Australia to California via Russia and Alaska. People from New York could drive to London via Greenland. The highway would network new and existing bridges and tunnels, improving ground transportation and potentially providing a conduit for utility pipelines.[4] However, in the Discovery Channel's "Extreme Engineering", it was noted that the Chukotka area is mostly roadless and uninhabited, and infrastructure would need to be developed completely from scratch.[citation needed] Chukotka is on the Eurasian side of the Bering Strait, where the highway would connect to North America via tunnels.[citation needed]


English Channel[edit]

There is no highway connection between Great Britain and the European mainland; only a railway connection, the Channel tunnel.

A cross channel rail tunnel was first proposed in 1802 and construction actually started in 1881 before being abandoned. Roll-on Roll-off ferry services provided links across the channel for vehicles.

A road tunnel was proposed in 1979, but not considered viable. Construction of the Channel Tunnel started in 1988 and the tunnel opened in 1994. Automobiles and lorries/transport trucks are loaded onto the Eurotunnel Shuttle's enclosed railway cars (similar to auto rack/motorail railway cars) for the trip through the tunnel, however. A service tunnel runs the entire length of the crossing, but is closed to general use and used only during emergencies and for maintenance.

Irish Sea[edit]

Various ferry services link Ireland to Britain and France. A number of options for an Irish Sea fixed crossing have been proposed over the years but none are currently under serious consideration.

Germany to Denmark to Sweden[edit]

The Fehmarn Belt Fixed Link (green) and the Gedser-Rostock bridge (orange) in the Danish-German motorway system

The Øresund Bridge links southern Sweden to the Danish island of Zealand. Zealand is linked to the Danish mainland and the rest of Europe by the Great Belt Fixed Link. Most travellers between Sweden and Germany, both by road and train use the 160 km (100 mi) shorter route with a ferry over the Fehmarn Belt southwestwards towards Hamburg or southwards to Rostock. A Fehmarn Belt Fixed Link is planned to be opened in 2021. A Gedser-Rostock Bridge is also under consideration.

Sweden to Finland[edit]

Ferry services link Sweden to Finland via the Åland Islands. There are proposals of fixed links between Sweden and Finland. A tunnel could be built between Sweden and Åland, around 50 km length, and 100–200 meters depth, with the lowest depth around Märket, a little detour. The area between Åland and Finland is shallow with many islands, able to be connected with bridges. Between Umeå and Vaasa further north, there is a proposal to build the Kvarken Bridge, a series of bridges, the longest 26 km, in total 40 km. None of these proposals have been seriously investigated.

Finland to Estonia[edit]

Ferry Services link Finland to Estonia as well as overground rail and road routes via Saint Petersburg in Russia. Rail Baltica is a proposal for a rail link from Finland to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, bypassing Russia via a Helsinki to Tallinn Tunnel. The gulf has heavy ferry traffic, and the port of Helsinki has the largest number of international passengers of any port in Europe, and most travel to Tallinn or back.

Italian mainland to Sicily[edit]

The Strait of Messina has a busy ferry traffic. The Strait of Messina Bridge is planned, but the construction date has been postponed several times.

Europe to Africa[edit]

Gibraltar Tunnel[edit]

The Gibraltar Tunnel is proposed to be a rail tunnel linking Africa and Europe. Due to the depth of the Strait of Gibraltar (300–900 metres / 1000–2950 feet), it would be a great challenge to remove automobile exhaust from this depth. Any tunnel would most likely be an electrified rail tunnel, similar to the Channel Tunnel linking the UK and France. There have also been proposals for a bridge over the Strait. There are car ferries across the strait.

Strait of Sicily[edit]

The proposed Strait of Sicily Tunnel would link Sicily to Tunisia. Together with the proposed Strait of Messina Bridge from Sicily to Italy this would provide a fixed link between Italy and Tunisia.

Europe to Asia[edit]

The Turkish Straits are the channel between European Turkey and Asian Turkey and consist of the (from south to north) Dardanelles the Sea of Marmara and the Bosphorus

The Bosphorus[edit]

Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge (1988) as seen from the Rumelian Castle (1452)

Three suspension bridges cross the Bosphorus. The first of these, the Bosphorus Bridge, is 1,074 m (3,524 ft) long and was completed in 1973. The second, named Fatih Sultan Mehmet (Bosporus II) Bridge, is 1,090 m (3,576 ft) long, and was completed in 1988 about 5 km (3 mi) north of the first bridge. The Bosporus Bridge forms part of the O1 Motorway, while the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge forms part of the Trans-European Motorway.

Construction of a third suspension bridge, the Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge, began on May 29, 2013;[5] it was opened to traffic on August 26, 2016.[6] The bridge was built near the northern end of the Bosporus, between the villages of Garipçe on the European side and Poyrazköy on the Asian side.[7] It is part of the "Northern Marmara Motorway", which will be further integrated with the existing Black Sea Coastal Highway, and will allow transit traffic to bypass city traffic.

The Marmaray project, featuring a 13.7 km (8.5 mi) long undersea railway tunnel, opened on 29 October 2013.[8] Approximately 1,400 m (4,593 ft) of the tunnel runs under the strait, at a depth of about 55 m (180 ft).

An undersea water supply tunnel with a length of 5,551 m (18,212 ft),[9] named the Bosporus Water Tunnel, was constructed in 2012 to transfer water from the Melen Creek in Düzce Province (to the east of the Bosporus strait, in northwestern Anatolia) to the European side of Istanbul, a distance of 185 km (115 mi).[9][10]

The Eurasia Tunnel is a road tunnel between Kazlicesme and Goztepe, which began construction in February 2011 and is opened to traffic on 21 December 2016.

The Dardanelles[edit]

At present, there is no bridge or tunnel crossing the Dardanelles although there are numerous ferries. The Çanakkale 1915 Bridge is currently under construction between the cities of Gelibolu and Lapseki.

Kerch Strait[edit]

The Crimean Bridge is a pair of parallel bridges constructed by the Russian Federation, to span the Strait of Kerch between the Taman Peninsula of Krasnodar Krai (Russia) and the Kerch Peninsula of Crimea (Russian-annexed, internationally recognised as part of Ukraine). The bridge complex provides for both vehicular traffic and for rail. With the length of 18.1 km (11.2 mi) it is the longest bridge in both Russia and Europe.

Africa to Arabia[edit]

Saudi-Egypt Causeway[edit]

The Saudi-Egypt Causeway is a proposal for a causeway and bridge between the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt and the northern part of Saudi Arabia. This would provide a direct road route between Egypt and Saudi Arabia without going through Israel or Jordan. There is a car ferry between Safaga, Egypt and Duba, Saudi Arabia.

Bridge of the Horns[edit]

The Bridge of the Horns is a proposed construction project to build a bridge between the coasts of Djibouti and Yemen across the Bab-el-Mandeb, the strait between the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.[11] There is no ferry today (2016).


Sri Lanka[edit]

The Boat Mail train and ferry service provided a train and ferry service from India to Sri Lanka until the First World War. An India–Sri Lanka HVDC Interconnection is under consideration to link the electricity networks of these countries.

South East Asian islands[edit]

Mainland Peninsular Malaysia is linked to Penang Island by two road bridges: the Penang Bridge and the Sultan Abdul Halim Muadzam Shah Bridge (Penang Second Bridge). To the south, it is linked to Singapore Island across the Straits of Johor by the Johor–Singapore Causeway and the Malaysia–Singapore Second Link; the former also carries Malaysia's West Coast Line to the island.

Passenger and vehicle ferries link the various islands of Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines and Papua New Guinea.

There are proposals to link Java, the most populated Island of Indonesia to Sumatra via a proposed Sunda Strait Bridge and from Sumatra to Singapore and/or Malaysia via a Malacca Strait Bridge.

Australia-Papua New Guinea Tunnel[edit]

A tunnel/bridge between the Australian mainland and the island of New Guinea, bridging the Torres Strait, is not considered economically feasible owing to the great distance. Cape York in northern Queensland is 140 km away from New Guinea. This is a very long distance compared to existing tunnels or bridges, and the demand for car travel is not so high; as of 2009[12] there are no car ferries between Australia and Papua New Guinea. Passenger travel is by air only.

Hainan Island[edit]

The Guangdong–Hainan Ferry, or the Yuehai Ferry (part of the Guangdong–Hainan Railway) [13] is a vehicle and Train ferry connecting Hainan Island to Guangdong in mainland China. The ferries run across the Qiongzhou Strait, between Zhanjiang, Guangdong and Haikou, Hainan.


The Taiwan Strait Tunnel Project is a proposed undersea tunnel to connect Pingtan in China to Hsinchu in northern Taiwan as part of the G3 Beijing–Taipei Expressway. First proposed in 1996,[14] the project has since been subject to a number of academic discussions and feasibility studies, including by the China Railway Engineering Corporation.[15] There exist cross strait ferries, both within outlying island of Taiwan and between PRC and Taiwan.

South Korea[edit]

Since the Korean War travel overland from South Korea through North Korea to China and Russia has been blocked, South Korea maintains ferry services to Japan and China.

Korea to Japan[edit]

The "Korea Japan Friendship Tunnel System," is a proposal for a fixed link from the city of Fukuoka on Kyūshū, Japan, to the port city of Busan in Korea via four islands. The maximum ocean depth in this area is 146 m (480 feet). Similar proposals have been discussed for decades by Korean and Japanese politicians. A road bridge links Kyūshū to the main Japanese island of Honshu.

Japan to Russia[edit]

The Seikan Tunnel has provided a rail link from the main Japanese Island of Honshu to the northernmost Japanese island of Hokkaido since 1988. The proposed Sakhalin-Hokkaido Tunnel would link Hokkaido to the Russian island of Sakhalin. When combined with the proposed Sakhalin Tunnel between Sakhalin and the Russian Mainland and an extension of the Baikal Amur Mainline this would give a rail link from Japan to Russia and the mainland of Asia.

Asia to America[edit]

Bering Strait bridge or tunnel[edit]

There is a proposal is to span the Bering Sea with a bridge or tunnel called the Intercontinental Peace Bridge, the TKM-World Link or the AmerAsian Peace Tunnel. This would link the American Cape Prince of Wales, with the Russian Cape Dezhnev. The Bering Strait Tunnel would consist of 3 tunnels connecting Alaska and Russia by going through two islands (the Little Diomede (USA) and Big Diomede (Russia)). The longest single tunnel would be 24 miles (40 km). Since the Bering Sea at the proposed crossing has a maximum known depth of 170 feet (50 m), the tunnels might be dug with conventional tunnel boring machines of the type that was employed in the construction of the Channel Tunnel. The three tunnel proposal is considered to be preferable over a bridge due to severe environmental conditions, especially the inescapable winter ice damage.

Each proposed tunnel would be shorter than some current tunnels. The Channel tunnel linking England with mainland Europe is approximately 31.34 miles (50.45 km) long; the ocean tunnel Seikan linking Hokkaidō with Honshū in Japan is 33.46 miles (55.86 km) long; and the Swiss Gotthard Base Tunnel through the Alps, opened in 2016, is 35.7 miles (59.60 km) long.[4]

To make a bridge or tunnel useful, a road or railway must be built to connect it, despite very difficult climate and very sparse population that makes roads less economically motivated. In Alaska a 700 mile (1,100 km) link would be needed, and in Russia a link more than 1,200 miles (2,000 km) long must be constructed. Until around 2010 such road connections were suggested by enthusiasts only, but at that time both the Russian government and the Alaskan state government started considering such roads.

The Americas[edit]

Vancouver Island[edit]

Ferry services link Vancouver Island to British Columbia on the Canadian Mainland and to the State of Washington in the US.

Proposals have been made for a fixed link to Vancouver Island for over a century. Because of the extreme depth and soft seabed of the Georgia Strait, and the potential for seismic activity, a bridge or tunnel would face monumental engineering, safety, and environmental challenges at a prohibitive cost.[16]

Prince Edward Island[edit]

Prince Edward Island is linked to New Brunswick on the Canadian mainland by the Confederation Bridge which opened in 1997.


Various proposals have been considered for a fixed link consisting of bridges, tunnels, and/or causeways across the Strait of Belle Isle, connecting the province of Newfoundland and Labrador's mainland Labrador region with the island of Newfoundland. This strait has a minimum width of 17.4 km (10.8 mi).

Long Island[edit]

Nine bridges and 13 tunnels (including railroad tunnels) connect Brooklyn and Queens, on Long Island, to Manhattan Island and Staten Island and, via these, to Newark in New Jersey and The Bronx on the mainland of New York state. Ferries connect Suffolk County northward across Long Island Sound to the mainland of New York state and westward to the state of Connecticut. There have been various proposals for a fixed link across Long Island Sound to replace these ferries.


The Chesapeake Bay Bridge–Tunnel (CBBT) is a 23-mile-long (37 km) fixed link crossing the mouth of the United States' Chesapeake Bay, connecting the Delmarva Peninsula with Virginia Beach, Virginia. It opened in 1964.

Florida to Cuba, Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico[edit]

Ferry services between the US and Cuba and between Cuba and Haiti have been suspended due to the ongoing United States embargo against Cuba.

There's only one regular ferry to Havana from a foreign port: Cancún, Mexico.[17]

There is a ferry that travels between Mayagüez in Puerto Rico and Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic.[18]

Darién Gap[edit]

A notable break in the Pan-American Highway is a section of land located in the Darién Province in Panama and the Colombian border called the Darién Gap. It is an 87-kilometre (54 mi) stretch of rainforest. The gap has been crossed by adventurers on bicycle, motorcycle, all-terrain vehicle, and foot, dealing with jungle, swamp, insects, kidnapping and other hazards.

Some people, groups, indigenous populations, and governments are opposed to completing the Darién portion of the highway. Reasons for opposition include protecting the rain forest, containing the spread of tropical diseases, protecting the livelihood of indigenous peoples in the area, and reducing the spread of drug trafficking and its associated violence from Colombia.

Transatlantic tunnel[edit]

A transatlantic tunnel is a theoretical tunnel that would span the Atlantic Ocean between North America and Europe possibly for such purposes as mass transit. Some proposals envision technologically advanced trains reaching speeds of 500 to 8,000 kilometres per hour (310 to 4,970 mph).[19] Most conceptions of the tunnel envision it between the United States and the United Kingdom ‒ or more specifically between New York City and London.

Advantages compared to air travel could be increased speed, and use of electricity instead of scarce oil-based fuel, considering a future time long after peak oil.

The main barriers to constructing such a tunnel are cost, with estimates of between $88 billion and $175 billion, as well as the limits of current materials science.[20] Existing major tunnels, such as the Channel Tunnel, Seikan Tunnel and the Gotthard Base Tunnel, despite using less expensive technology than any yet proposed for the transatlantic tunnel, struggle financially.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ostenfeld, Klaus H.; Hommel, Dietrich; Olsen, Dan; Hauge, Lars (Nov 4, 1999). "Planning of Major Fixed Links". In Chen, Wai-Fah; Lian, Duan. Bridge Engineering Handbook. CRC Press. p. 4-1. ISBN 0-8493-7434-0. 
  2. ^ "Trans Global Highway". Retrieved June 1, 2016. 
  3. ^ "Didik". Retrieved 1 June 2016. 
  4. ^ a b "Proposal for a Trans-Global Highway". Frank Didik. Retrieved 14 July 2007. 
  5. ^ "Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge, Istanbul". Retrieved August 29, 2016. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Turkey Unveils Route for Istanbul's Third Bridge". Anatolian Agency. 29 April 2010. Archived from the original on 19 June 2010. 
  8. ^ "Turkey's Bosporus tunnel to open sub-sea Asia link". BBC News. 29 October 2013. 
  9. ^ a b CNN Türk: "Melen hattı Boğaz'ı geçti" (21-05-2012)
  10. ^ Nayır, Mehmet (2012-05-19). "Melen Boğaz'ı geçiyor". Sabah Ekonomi (in Turkish). Retrieved 2012-06-11. 
  11. ^ Notice-to-Proceed Launches Ambitious Red Sea Crossing – ENR | McGraw-Hill Construction
  12. ^ Australia PNG Indonesia by ship/ ferry
  13. ^ Yue 粤 is the standard Chinese abbreviation for Guangdong, and Hai 海, for Hainan.
  14. ^ "Large basalt reef may make Taiwan Strait Tunnel come true". Whats On Xiamen. 25 November 2009. Retrieved 22 February 2012. 
  15. ^ "Discussion on Options of Taiwan Strait Crossing Project and Qiongzhou Strait Crossing Project by 9 Academicians held in Luoyang, China: Several of Them Agree with Tunnel Option". China Civil Engineering Society. 26 April 2011. Retrieved 22 February 2012. 
  16. ^ "A Potential Fixed Link to Vancouver Island - Ministry of Transportation". Archived from the original on 2010-08-21. Retrieved 2010-09-13. 
  17. ^ [1]
  18. ^ [2]
  19. ^ Joseph Giotta (Narrator), Powderhouse Productions (16 April 2003). "Transatlantic Tunnel". Extreme Engineering. Discovery Channel. Archived from the original on 27 September 2011. 
  20. ^ Carl Hoffman (12 April 2004). "Trans-Atlantic MagLev: Vacuum Tube Train". Popular Science. Retrieved 27 September 2011. 
  • "The Three Americas Railway: An International and Intercontinental Enterprise" book written in 1881 by Hinton Rowan Helper discusses the need for an Intercontinental Highway, using railroads, starting on page 418.
  • "The Rotarian", January 1936. Article "Seeking Peace in a Concrete Way" starting on page 42.
  • "Looking far north: the Harriman Expedition to Alaska, 1899" written in 1982 by William H. Goetzmann, Kay Sloan, writes that Harriman in 1899 proposed a "Round the World Railroad" (page 128). The authors go on to write that Harriman traveled to Japan a few years later to continue this proposal.
  • "The Bering Strait Crossing: A 21st Century Frontier Between East and West" by James Oliver published in 2006 (256 pages) mentions extensively the Intercontinental Highway. He goes on to mention that the notion of a global highway has been around for hundreds of years including William Gilpen, who suggests it in 1846 was a proponent of a global rail highway to link to the then being proposed European and Asiatic Railway.
  • "Planning and Design of Bridges" by M. S. Troitsky, 1994 describes many of the bridges and tunnels proposed in the Trans Global Highway article including on page 39 this book mentions that in 1958, T.Y. Lin mentions the possible construction of a Bering Strait bridge (and obviously a needed highway network).
  • Alaska History: A Publication of the Alaska Historical Society, Volumes 4-6 (1989) mentions on page 6 that in 1892, a man named Strauss proposed a global highway and a man made bridge over the Bering Strait. The article goes on to mention the Lin proposal of 1958.
  • "Maritime Information Review" a publication of the Netherlands Maritime Information Centre, in 1991 had an extensive article, on "strait crossings" covering the then proposed Bering Strait bridge, the Gibraltar Tunnel and so on, and mentions the proposed global highway network.
  • Popular Mechanics Apr 1994 has an article "Alaska Siberia Bridge" and the article goes on to mention the construction of a global highway.

External links[edit]