Germany and Denmark build the longest submerged tunnel in the world

(CNN) — The world’s longest submerged tunnel, which will descend up to 40 meters under the Baltic Sea, will link Denmark and Germany and dramatically reduce travel time between the two countries when it opens in 2029.

After more than a decade of planning, construction of the Fehmarnbelt tunnel began in 2020 and a temporary harbor on the Danish side has been completed in the months since. The factory that will soon build the 89 concrete sections that will make up the tunnel will be located there.

“The expectation is that the first production line will be ready by the end of the year or early next year,” said Henrik Vincentsen, CEO of Femern A/S, the Danish state-owned company in charge of the project. “By early 2024, we have to be ready to submerge the first section of the tunnel.”

The tunnel, which will be 18 kilometers long, is one of the largest infrastructure projects in Europe, with a construction budget of more than 7 billion euros ($7.1 billion).

By comparison, the 50-kilometre English Channel Tunnel linking England and France, completed in 1993, cost the equivalent of 12 billion pounds (about $13.6 million) in today’s money. Although longer than the Fehmarnbelt Tunnel, the Channel Tunnel was made with a drilling machine, rather than submerging already built tunnel sections.

The new tunnel will be built through the Fehmarn Belt, a strait between the German island of Fehmarn and the Danish island of Lolland, and is intended as an alternative to the current ferry service from Rødby and Puttgarden, which carries millions of passengers each year. Where it now takes 45 minutes by ferry, it will take just seven minutes by train and 10 minutes by car.

submerged train denmark germany

The roof of the first production hall where the tunnel sections will be built in Denmark was completed on June 8, 2022. Credit: Femern A/S

a faster ride

The tunnel, whose official name is Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link, will also be the longest combined road and rail tunnel in the world. It will consist of two double-lane highways, separated by a service crossing, and two electric railways.

“Today, if you took a train from Copenhagen to Hamburg, it would take about four and a half hours,” says Jens Ole Kaslund, technical director of Femern A/S, the Danish state-owned company in charge of the project. “When the tunnel is finished, the same journey will take two and a half hours.”

“Today many people fly between the two cities, but in the future it will be better to take the train,” he adds. The same car ride will be about an hour faster than it is now, taking into account the time saved by not queuing for the ferry.”

In addition to the benefits for passenger trains and cars, the tunnel will have a positive impact on trucks and freight trains, says Kaslund, because it creates a land route between Sweden and Central Europe that will be 160 kilometers shorter than the current one.

Currently, traffic between the Scandinavian peninsula and Germany via Denmark can take the ferry across the Fehmarnbelt or a longer route via bridges between the islands of Zealand, Funen and the Jutland peninsula.

works begin

The project dates back to 2008, when Germany and Denmark signed a treaty to build the tunnel. From then on, it took more than a decade for both countries to pass the necessary legislation and carry out the geotechnical and environmental impact studies.

While the process was completed smoothly on the Danish side, in Germany various organisations, including ferry companies, environmental groups and local municipalities, challenged the approval of the project citing unfair competition or environmental and noise concerns.

germany denmark submerged tunnel

Dredging works started on the German coast in autumn 2021. Credit: Femern A/S

In November 2020, a federal court in Germany dismissed the complaints: “The sentence came with a series of conditions, which we somewhat expected and were prepared for, on how we control the environment while we build, on things like noise and sediment discharge. I think we have to make sure that the impact on the environment is as small as possible,” says Vincentsen.

Now that the temporary port on the Danish side is complete, other phases of the project are underway, such as the excavation of the actual trench that will house the tunnel, as well as the construction of the factory that will build the tunnel sections. Each section will be 217 meters long (approximately half the length of the world’s largest container ship), 42 meters wide and 9 meters high. Weighing 73,000 tons each, they will be as heavy as more than 13,000 elephants.

“We will have six production lines and the factory will consist of three halls, the first of which is already 95% complete,” says Vincentsen. The sections will be placed just below the seabed, some 40 meters below sea level at the deepest point, and moved into place by barge and crane. Placing the sections will take approximately three years.”

A broader impact

Up to 2,500 people will work directly on the construction project, which has been affected by global supply chain issues.

“The supply chain is challenging right now because the price of steel and other raw materials has increased. We get the materials we need, but it’s difficult and our contractors have had to increase the number of suppliers to make sure they can get what they need. That’s one of the things we’re really keeping an eye on right now, because it’s crucial to have a constant supply of raw materials,” says Vincentsen.

Michael Svane of the Confederation of Danish Industry, one of Denmark’s largest business organisations, believes the tunnel will be of benefit to businesses beyond Denmark itself.

tunnel germany denmark

This full-scale test mold of a tunnel element was built in July 2022. Credit: Femern A/S

“The Fehmarnbelt tunnel will create a strategic corridor between Scandinavia and Central Europe. Improved rail transfer means that more goods will move from road to rail, supporting a climate-friendly mode of transport. We see cross-border connections as a tool to create growth and jobs not only locally, but also nationally,” he tells CNN.

Although some environmental groups have raised concerns about the impact of the tunnel on the porpoises that inhabit the Fehmarn belt, Michael Løvendal Kruse of the Danish Society for Nature Conservation believes the project will have environmental benefits.

“As part of the Fehmarnbelt tunnel, new natural areas and stone reefs will be created on the Danish and German sides. Nature needs space and therefore there will be more space for nature,” he says.

“But the biggest advantage will be the climate benefit. The faster pace will make trains a strong rival for air traffic, and charging on electric trains is by far the best solution for the environment.”

Source link

, , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.