A gateway to central Europe
One of Europe’s most important infrastructure projects and record-breaking feat of modern engineering will bring Denmark and Germany even closer, writes Nikolaos Papadopoulos.
Pictures: Femern A/S
Lolland is Denmark’s fourth-largest island, a quiet place of rolling meadows, sandy beaches, and picturesque forests. It is a place that attracts visitors looking for a quiet retreat close to nature and away from the hustle of big cities. However, it will also be home to a veritable feat of modern engineering in a few years: the Fehmarn Belt Link, the world’s longest immersed tunnel. Expected to be completed in 2029, fully backed by the Danish Ministry of Transport, and at 18 kilometres of length, the tunnel will provide another direct road and rail link to the other side of the Danish-German border, from Lolland’s Rødbyhavn to the German island of Fehmarn and through there to the rest of the country and continent.
Named after the Fehmarn Belt, the body of water separating Denmark and Germany and connecting the Bays of Kiel and Mecklenburg, it will offer another connection point and unparalleled ease of access between the two neighbours. The Fehmarn Belt tunnel will comprise of a four-lane motorway and two electrified rail tracks. It will directly employ up to 3000 people for its construction, not counting around 500 expected apprenticeship positions. The amount of steel to be used in its construction will be the equivalent of 50 Eiffel Towers, and it will cost a total of 52.6 billion DKK to build. It will take an average of ten minutes to cross by car and seven minutes by train; it takes the current ferry service an average of 45 minutes to cross the Fehmarn Strait. The tunnel will, of course, be constructed according to the highest standards of safety and security, ensuring a smooth, comfortable journey for all.
“It will take an average of ten minutes to cross by car and seven minutes by train.”
It is supported by the European Union through the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) programme and is one of the continent’s largest and most important infrastructure projects. However, the most apparent reason behind its construction is its most obvious benefit: the drastic reduction of its time to cross from Denmark to Germany. This not only applies to its two endpoints but also to traffic from other areas of Denmark, such as Funen and Zealand. Traffic is usually routed through Jutland, so both holidaymakers and freight services will benefit from the reduction. This will also lead to less congestion on Denmark’s busy railways and more passenger trains.
The tunnel’s construction will effectively eliminate one of the bottlenecks of the Scandinavian-Mediterranean (ScanMed) Corridor, closing a significant gap in the European transport network. The ScanMed corridor, running from Northern Scandinavia to Malta, is one of the nine prioritised transport corridors within the EU. Allowing for more rail transport in the corridor improves mobility between Scandinavia and Central Europe, supporting and enhancing the free flow of goods and services within the EU.
Most importantly, though, the tunnel will contribute towards Europe’s green drive and achieving its strategic environmental goals. Denmark is at the forefront of Europe’s green transition, and the island of Lolland is at the epicentre of that transition. The project falls in line with the country’s climate targets, improving the competitiveness of low emission transport of goods and passengers; the reduction in road and rail travel distances and times, along with the trimming of ferry operations, which all will have a significant positive effect on emission reduction for the whole continent.