Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Road Haulage and Rail Freight Carriers Will be Excited by Undersea Tunnel

If Project Approved Cargo Transit Times Could be Cut from Copenhagen to Hamburg
Shipping News Feature

DENMARK – GERMANY – The Danish Parliament has adopted the proposed Construction Act for a direct road and rail link between Scandinavia and Central Europe, which is expected to create new opportunities for international freight transport and save rail cargo carriers approximately 2.5 hours when travelling between Copenhagen and Hamburg. Dubbed the Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link, the planned 18 kilometre undersea tunnel that will connect Puttgarden on the German island of Fehmarn with Rødbyhavn on the Danish island of Lolland, is a step closer to being realised almost seven years after the initial agreement was signed.

In addition to the tunnel, the current rail link between Rødbyhavn and Ringsted in Denmark, will be expanded by two electrified rail tracks, allowing for speeds of up to 200 km/h. Upon completion in 2021, freight trains between Hamburg and Scandinavia will be saved the 160 kilometre detour via the current route across the Great Belt. The tunnel will also reduce travel time across the Fehmarnbelt from 45 minutes to 10 for car (and presumably truck) drivers, and from 4.5 hours to 2.5 hours for trains between Hamburg and Copenhagen.

The project was originally mooted as a bridge but has been revised as an immersed tunnel. This involves lowering precast concrete sections of tunnel into a pre-dug trench on the sea floor before joining them and eventually evacuating the water. The proposed rectangular sections will have internal measurements circa forty metres wide by ten metres high. This allows for three passageways, two parallel rail tunnels travelling north and southbound of about six metre width, two roads of eleven metres width, with three lanes (one a breakdown lane), and a service passageway around three metres across.

The Construction Act means that the state-owned companies, Femern A/S and A/S Femern Landanlæg are authorised to construct and operate a fixed link across the Fehmarnbelt and associated landworks in Denmark respectively. The Act grants powers to expropriate farmland, a small number of wind turbines and industrial areas, the land to be used for the motorway and rail line and for the proposed tunnel element factory east of Rødbyhavn. Furthermore, the archaeological investigations will continue in parts of the production area, these have been awaiting the environmental approval for the project.

Construction work can only commence when German planning approval is in place and after the parliamentary parties behind the Fehmarnbelt fixed link have reviewed the overall economics of the project in the autumn of 2015. Denmark's Minister of Transport, Magnus Heunicke said:

“Parliament’s adoption of the Construction Act for the Fehmarnbelt project is without doubt one of the greatest and most important milestones for the project. I am, as Transport Minister, enormously proud and pleased that we’ve reached this milestone today. The Fehmarnbelt link is an historic project without parallel that will create growth, development and many, many jobs.

“With the adoption of the Construction Act, the project has received Danish environmental approval, which is a big step. This is a highly complex project, however, and we’re not there yet. We cannot commence construction until we have clarification of the project's overall economy and the status of the German approval of the project in the autumn. This is the most responsible approach to dealing with such a huge project.”

Following initial plans published in 2000 the tunnel has evolved into its current form, with escalating cost estimates, ever since. The proposed completion date of 2018 has now been superceded by one of 2021 but it is thought that the proposal for the rail infrastructure is likely to delay that date considerably assuming the German authorities agree to the scheme.