Catch a train to the future
Updated: Jan 7, 2021
Travel between Scandinavia and the rest of Europe is getting an upgrade
Photographs: VisitDenmark - Niclas Jessen
Text: Erin Gustafson
While many of us in Denmark have dramatically cut down our travel with round after round of pandemic restrictions, 2020 did launch something wonderful for the future of sustainable Scandinavian travel. Agreements have been signed between Denmark and Germany to begin construction on the longest underwater tunnel in the world. The Fehmarnbelt Tunnel will connect Denmark and Germany via an eighteen-kilometre channel with space for both cars, trucks and trains. No planes.
With support from the EU, work is already underway right in the Rødby harbour on the Danish island of Lolland. This is where you currently catch the ferry for the journey across to Puttgarden on the German side. Imagine if you could shave an hour off that commute. In each direction? That is the plan. With four lanes for cars and two electrified rail tracks, the journey under the sea is slated to take 7 minutes by train and a quick 10 minutes by car, travelling at 110 km/hr. No more racing to make the next ferry. And no more worries wondering if lousy weather will potentially postpone any sailings. The tunnel will be on-demand and direct. Copenhagen to Hamburg in two and a half hours? Yes, please. What a difference that will be.
"With support from the EU, work is already underway right in the Rødby harbour on the Danish island of Lolland."
An added bonus will be the network of upgraded rail links for the rest of Denmark that are set to accompany the tunnel. Consider the current route for freight between Europe and Scandinavia. Freight trains right now have to travel across the Store Bælt and Lille Bælt bridges to carry their cargo. This impacts the timeliness and capacity for passenger trains between Zealand, Fyn and Jutland. Rerouting all those cargo trains via the Fehmarnbelt will cut off 160 kilometres from their journey, reducing fuel as well as opening up those crowded rails for additional commuters. Part of Denmark’s push to make the movement of freight more sustainable will have positive impacts for individual residents and visitors as well. Faster connections between the commerce centres of Copenhagen and Aarhus will be a big one.
Consider also the boom for regional tourism with such a quick and easy link to both sides of the Baltic. You will be able to pop over to Lübeck’s lovely Christmas markets for a day out in Deutschland. Explore more of Hamburg and the entire region. And in return more German and European tourists will bring travel monies to the smaller communities of southern Denmark. The faster connection will open opportunities for business, education and employment across borders.
With so much potential for cultural connection, how much will this amazing tunnel cost? According to 2015 budget estimates, the project will spend DKK 52.6 billion, which will be user financed to repay the necessary loans. Just like the tolls you pay for crossing the Øresund Bridge and Store Bælt bridges, there will be a fee to zip under the sea. How much? That remains to be seen. Stay tuned. The Fehmarnbelt Tunnel is slated to open in 2029. Follow along on the project Facebook page and YouTube channel to see simulated tunnel crossings and current construction progress. Until then, keep dreaming about all the sustainable exploring you’ll do when it’s done.