Proposals for a more direct "bird flight line" date back from the 1920s. Construction was started on the Danish side in 1941 after the Nazi occupation force pushed the matter, but work was halted again in 1946. After World War II, Warnemünde (near Rostock) was included in the territory of East Germany. Political divisions made traffic between Denmark and West Germany via Warnemünde inconvenient.
From 1951 to 1963 a ferry line from Gedser to Großenbrode operated as a temporary solution. In addition, traffic between Copenhagen and Hamburg would either be directed over the Great Belt ferry, Funen and Jutland or the Gedser-Warnemünde ferry. Construction of the "bird flight line" was restarted in 1949 and completed in 1963.
On 14 December 2019 at 20:02 the last train from DSB and Deutsche Bahn arrived in Rødbyhavn. Trains between Hamburg and Copenhagen will run via Funen and Jutland until the Fehmarnbelt connection is completed. The rail ferry was discontinued because service would have been degraded massively while works on Sydbanen are ongoing.
The core of the connection is the 19-kilometre (12 mi) ferry link between Rødby (Denmark) and Puttgarden (Germany). The line is operated by Scandlines. Ferries take 45 minutes and operate twice an hour, 24 hours a day.
The projected Fehmarn Belt Fixed Link, an undersea tunnel, will replace the ferries. Danish-German negotiations on 29 June 2007 culminated in an agreement to complete the link by 2028, essentially on the basis of Danish funding.
The road connection consists of:
- European route E47 on the Danish side.
- Autobahn A1 (European routes E 47 and E22) on the German side, and the two-lane Bundesstraße 207/E 47 on the northernmost section. An additional 10 km (6.2 mi) of motorway was completed by 2008, still leaving the last 25 km (16 mi) a two-lane road.
The rail connection consists of:
- 118 km (73 mi) of double track from Copenhagen to Vordingborg; maximum speed 160 to 180 km/h (99 to 112 mph); electrified for 64 km (40 mi) to Ringsted
- 65 km (40 mi) of single track from Vordingborg to Rødby; maximum speed 120 km/h (75 mph)
- 89 km (55 mi) of single track from Puttgarden to Lübeck
- 64 km (40 mi) of double track from Lübeck to Hamburg, electrified.
Until 2019, three to five EuroCity trains a day in each direction used train ferries to provide passenger services between Copenhagen and Hamburg, operated with DBAG Class 605 trains by Deutsche Bahn (out of service since 2017) and Danish IC3 trains. With the completion of the Great Belt Bridge freight trains are no longer directed via Rødby-Puttgarden, but via Funen and Jutland. Since the end of 2019, passenger trains have also used this route, which is 160 km (99 mi) longer but around 20 minutes faster and allows longer trains. Only some of the IC3 trains were capable of going to Germany.
These current bridges and tunnels are part of the connection:
- Masnedsund Bridge and Storstrøm Bridge, Sealand/Falster (rail)
- Farø Bridges, Sealand/Falster (motorway E47)
- Frederick IX Bridge, Falster/Lolland (two-lane road and rail)
- Guldborgsund Tunnel, Falster/Lolland (motorway E47)
- Rødbyhavn (harbour, Denmark)
- Puttgarden (harbour, Germany)
- Fehmarn Sound bridge, Fehmarn/Germany (two-lane road E47 and rail)
High-speed railway under construction
The 'Railway axis Fehmarn Belt' is the Priority Project 20 of the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) that seeks to establish a high-speed rail line Copenhagen–Hamburg, and which central section is the Fehmarn Belt Tunnel's railway. In the north, it connects to the Øresund Bridge/Drogden Tunnel (Priority Project 11) and the Nordic Triangle railway/road axis (Priority Project 12), and in the south to Bremen and Hanover. The full line currently under construction consists of several new railways to be built and old railways to be upgraded, to achieve at least a maximum speed of 200 km/h on all sections:
- Copenhagen–Ringsted Line, opened on 31 May 2019, currently operating at 180 km/h, upgrading to 250 km/h in 2023.
- Sydbanen (Ringsted–Rødbyhavn), new tracks to be laid by 2021, to be electrified to reach 200 km/h by 2024.
- Fehmarn Belt Tunnel (Rødbyhavn–Puttgarden), 200 km/h, to be completed in 2028. (since revised)
- Puttgarden–Lübeck railway, to be electrified and upgraded to reach 200 km/h up from the current 100–160 km/h. The new Fehmarn Sound Tunnel (to be completed in 2028) is part of this section.
- Lübeck–Hamburg railway, to be upgraded to reach 200 km/h.
Beeline in pictures
M/S Prinsesse Benedikte, one of the ferries
The ICE TD/type 605 formerly used on the Vogelfluglinie
Planned route of the Fehmarn Belt Fixed Link
IC3 trains on the boat
- Norddeutscher Rundfunk. Fehmarnsundbrücke: Das Herzstück der Vogelfluglinie. Retrieved 27 October 2023.
- End of an Era: Last Train on Puttgarden – Rødby, Ferry Shipping News 20 December 2019. Accessed on 26 June 2022.
- "The train link between Germany & Scandinavia..." The Man in Seat 61. Retrieved 13 January 2020.
- "Med en af Europas sidste jernbanefærger" (in Danish). 28 November 2019.
- "Priority Project 20: Railway axis Fehmarn Belt". 30 Priority Projects TEN-T. European Commission. Retrieved 29 June 2020.
- David Burroughs (7 February 2020). "Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link rail consultancy contract awarded". International Railway Journal. Retrieved 26 June 2020.
- "Faser i arbejdet" (in Danish). Banedanmark. 22 May 2017. Retrieved 26 June 2020.
- Denis Bowers (15 June 2018). "Danish parliament approves DKr 11bn rolling stock purchase". International Railway Journal. Retrieved 26 June 2020.
- Gernot Knödler (18 June 2020). "Klatsche für Fehmarnbelt-Querung". Die Tageszeitung (in German). Retrieved 26 June 2020.
- "Entscheidung zur neuen Fehmarnsundquerung". Anbindung-fbq.de (in German). DB Netze. 3 March 2020. Retrieved 29 June 2020.