In the underwater railway tunnel that connects Denmark and Germany

An 18-kilometre-long tunnel will soon connect southern Denmark with northern Germany under the Baltic Sea.

When the ambitious sunken road and rail link opens in 2029, it will be the longest of its kind in the world, dramatically cutting travel times for tourists and commuters between the two countries.

As construction gets underway, Euronews Travel speaks to the team behind the Fehmarn Belt Tunnel to find out more.

What benefits does the Fehmarn Belt Tunnel offer travellers?

We are currently traveling between the Danish island From Lolland and the German island of Fehmarn, a ferry trip takes 45 minutes.

The Fehmarn Belt Tunnel connects Rødbyhavn on the Danish side with Puttgarden on the German side and promises to reduce travel time by car to 10 minutes and by road to just seven minutes. train.

“For commutersit means a faster and more reliable connection between Denmark and Germany, significantly reducing travel time and making the daily commute much easier,” Denise Juchem, a spokesperson for Femern A/S – the Danish company preparing the project – told Euronews Travel. It will also ease congestion on existing road and rail routes.

For tourists, the tunnel will make it easier to explore both countries, they add.

The Fehmarn Belt Tunnel, which runs via the Danish island of Zealand to Copenhagen, will revolutionise travel between the two continents. Scandinavia and Central Europe by providing a faster, more reliable and more direct connection.”

The tunnel road will also connect to the German motorway network, making it easily accessible by car.

Puttgarden, May 2024, where the tunnel connects to Germany.

Puttgarden, May 2024, where the tunnel connects to Germany. – Female A/S

Why was an underwater tunnel chosen to connect Denmark and Germany?

Several options were explored, including a bridge and a tunnel bored through the earth, but an underwater tunnel was eventually chosen to connect the two countries.

“Ultimately the 18 kilometers submerged tunnel was considered the best solution due to its lower environmental impact, reduced sensitivity to weather conditions and cost-effectiveness,” Juchem explains.

The tunnel must meet strict environmental standards, ensuring minimal impact on local ecosystems and biodiversity. This will be monitored by specialized vessels. Natural landscapes that will inevitably be affected by the project will be compensated for by the creation of new nature reserves elsewhere – on Lolland these will be at least twice as large.

The project is expected to cost 55.1 billion kronor (€4.8 billion). The EU has allocated around €1.1 billion for the construction, while the associated railway facilities have invested €117 million.

Ultimately it will be user funded with revenue from tolls and tickets used to repay remaining loans. This is a similar model to the successful Øresund Link, a bridge and immersed tunnel connecting Denmark and Sweden.

The costs for using the Fehmarn Belt Tunnel are determined by the Danish Minister of Transport prior to the opening of the tunnel.

Danish King Frederik X (center) visits the construction site of the Fehmarn Belt Tunnel and opens the first tunnel element, Lolland, Denmark, June 17, 2024.Danish King Frederik X (center) visits the construction site of the Fehmarn Belt Tunnel and opens the first tunnel element, Lolland, Denmark, June 17, 2024.

Danish King Frederik X (center) visits the construction site of the Fehmarn Belt Tunnel and opens the first tunnel element, Lolland, Denmark, June 17, 2024. – Ingrid Riis/Ritzau Scanpix via AP

How is the immersed tunnel built?

“The design of the Fehmarn Belt Tunnel was a complex process that required extensive planning,” says Markus Just, Tunnel Design Quality Manager at Femern A/S.

One of the biggest challenges was finding a way to transport the huge, heavy tunnel elements from the factory to the immersion location.

“We decided to build basins for each of the three factory halls, so that the tunnel elements could float upwards as if in a tunnel. key lock and transported to the working port,” Just explains.

Specially designed marine equipment and work vessels are then used to transport the elements in a watertight manner and lower them into place.

“The system makes it possible to lower and connect the tunnel elements for the longest immersed tunnel in the world with an accuracy of just a few millimeters,” says Just.

However, one of the project’s biggest technical innovations focuses on safety and maintenance.

“The Fehmarn Belt Tunnel will be the world’s first immersed tunnel with basements,” Just reveals. These deeper and wider segments will be placed every two kilometers and connected by tubes. They will provide space for service vehicles, so that maintenance personnel can reach areas in the tunnel safely and quickly, improving traffic availability.

The first factory casting of the Fehmarn Belt Tunnel in July 2023.The first factory casting of the Fehmarn Belt Tunnel in July 2023.

The first factory casting of the Fehmarn Belt Tunnel in July 2023. – Female A/S

What safety measures are being taken for people using the tunnel?

In addition to providing easy access for maintenance and operational personnel, the tunnel will include several elements to make it “as safe to use as comparable routes on land,” Juchem said.

Based on experience from other major tunnel projects, including the Øresund Link, it will have full emergency lanes in both directions of the road. motorway inside the tunnel, with vehicles travelling in separate tubes in each direction. This allows vehicles to stop in the event of a breakdown or emergency.

The well-lit tunnel will be equipped with emergency exits along its entire length, so that there are safe escape routes in the event of incidents.

A local traffic control and a train traffic control center in Copenhagen monitors the tunnel 24 hours a day and ensures that any problems can be responded to quickly.

How does the Fehmarn Belt Tunnel make travel more sustainable?

It is hoped that the tunnel will encourage a shift from road to urban transport. train transport.

“This shift is expected to significantly reduce CO2 emissions, rail transport is more efficient and less polluting compared to road transport,” says Juchem.

Environmental organizations are happy with this news.

“We see the Fehmarnbelt connection as a very important project in terms of climate,” says Michael Løvendal Kruse, a representative of the NGO Danish Society for Nature Conservation. “It will strengthen the transport of freight and passengers by means of the most climate-friendly transport that currently exists, namely electric trains.”

The tunnel will also create a more direct route for international trains and trucks, “saving approximately 160 kilometers in travel time and reducing fuel consumption and costs.” emissions”, Juchem adds.

“By creating a fully electrified rail corridor, the tunnel supports the use of green energy and sustainable transport solutions, further integration of the European transport network and promoting a greener future.”

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