THE WORLD’S LONGEST ROAD AND RAIL TUNNEL

The Fehmarn Belt Fixed Link (Danish: Femern Bælt-forbindelsen, German: Fehmarnbelt-Querung) is a planned immersed tunnel that is proposed to connect the Danish island of Lolland with the German island of Fehmarn, crossing the 18 km (11 mi) wide Fehmarn Belt in the Baltic Sea, providing a direct link between northern Germany and Lolland, and thence to the Danish island of Zealand and Copenhagen, becoming the world’s longest road and rail tunnel, potentially a major connection between Central Europe and Scandinavia, and shortening the travel time between Denmark and Germany to just 10 minutes by car and seven minutes by train.

The tunnel will replace a well-used ferry service from Rødby and Puttgarden, currently operated by Scandlines, a route known in German as the Vogelfluglinie and in Danish as Fugleflugtslinjen. literally “the bird flight line” (in both languages this an idiom for “direct line”, akin to the English as the crow flies).

Fehmarn is connected by the Fehmarn Sound Bridge with the German mainland, and Lolland is connected by a tunnel and bridges with Zealand via the island of Falster, connecting with the Swedish mainland via the Øresund Bridge. Although there is also a fixed connection between Zealand and Germany, via the Great Belt, Funen, and Jutland, the Fehmarn Belt Fixed Link would provide a more convenient and faster direct road and rail route from Hamburg to Copenhagen, Sweden, and Norway, comprising a four-lane motorway and two electrified rail tracks.

The construction of the tunnel between Denmark and Germany will be carried out in several phases over a number of years.

Comprehensive planning work, along with feasibility and environmental studies have been carried out in connection with preparations for the construction of the Fehmarnbelt tunnel. The construction of the tunnel and associated landworks will begin when final approval of the project is received from the Danish political parties supporting the project, when contracts have been signed with the contractors and when the German authority’s approval is available. 

The project is divided into several phases. This will ensure an efficient and continuous building process. Some phases will overlap so that several activities can progress at the same time:

Tunnelportal Copyright Femern AS


1. Site preparation: An area east of Rødbyhavn will be prepared for the construction project. The area includes the location for the production of the tunnel elements and accommodation for the construction workers. The work includes the preparation of roads to and from the production facilities. 

2. Construction of the production facilities and associated working harbour: A factory will be built east of Rødbyhavn for the manufacture of the 89 steel-reinforced concrete elements from which the tunnel will be constructed. Accommodation for the tunnel workers will also be built. 

3. Construction of a working harbours: Working habours will be build on both Fehmarn and Lolland. This will be used for the shipping in of the large quantities of building materials to be used for the construction. The working habour in Rødbyhavn on Lolland will by far be the biggest of the two, as the production of tunnel elements are taking place on Lolland. It is anticipated that the Danish working habour will receive approximately six shiploads a month. The harbour will also be used for when the finished tunnel elements are towed out to the Fehmarnbelt.

4. Dredging work will take place in the Fehmarnbelt: The dredged trench from Denmark to Germany needs to be 17.6 kilometres long, up to approximately 90 metres wide and 16 metres deep. This is where the tunnel elements will be immersed, connected and covered. Surplus material from the dredging will be used for the construction of new coastal areas near Rødbyhavn and to a limited extent on Fehmarn. 

5. Building the portal facilities: Construction of portal facilities on the Danish side and on the German side comprising the down/up approaches to the tunnel. The portal facilities will connect the tunnel railway and motorway with the upgraded and partly newly built roads and railways in the hinterland. 
6. Production and assembly of the tunnel elements: The tunnel elements will be produced at the factory in Rødbyhavn and towed out to the Fehmarnbelt on an ongoing basis. Contractors will immerse the elements one by one and assemble them from the coasts and out toward the middle of the belt from both the Danish and German sides.
7. Installing the technology and equipment: Femern A/S will build the motorway and railway installations and all necessary technical and mechanical equipment in the tunnel.

8. Testing and opening: Equipment and safety and contingency procedures will need to be tested and approved before the finished tunnel becomes operational. The affected land and coastal areas will be re-established, while the tunnel element factory and working harbour will be demolished.

9. New recreational coastal areas: Most of the dredged soil from Fehmarnbelt  will be used to build new recreational areas of the coasts of Lolland and Fehmarn. The new landscape will be shaped by beaches and dunes as well as both wet and dry natural and grazing areas of both recreational and biological benefit. The new land areas will be built from the dredged soil from the construction of the tunnel, production sites and work harbours. Some of the land area to be established on Lolland will compensate for the loss of existing natural areas arising from the project.

The land areas will be created on an ongoing basis as the soil from the seabed is dredged. On both Lolland and Fehmarn, they will generally extend around 500 metres into the Fehmarnbelt. This is about the same distance from the shore as the piers of the existing ferry ports at Rødbyhavn and Puttgarden.

The Fehmarnbelt link will be the world’s longest immersed tunnel, but the techniques are proven. The Øresund tunnel was built in the same way.

The project will be divided into a number of phases to ensure eficient and seamless construction. Some phases will overlap so that several activities can run at the same time.

3D grafik of special element Copyright Femern AS 2

The Fehmarnbelt link in numbers

The Fehmarnbelt link will be an 18 kilometre long immersed tunnel. It will be the world’s longest of its type for both road and rail.

  • The Fehmarnbelt tunnel will comprise a four lane motorway and two electrified rail tracks.
  • The tunnel will consist of 79 individual elements, each 217 metres long, and 10 special elements with a lower floor for the use of the tunnel operation and maintenance equipment.
  • A tunnel element weighs 73,000 tonnes. This corresponds to 14,000 elephants.
  • The amount of steel used in the tunnel is equivalent to about 50 Eiffel Towers.
  • Up to 3,000 people will be directly employed in building the Fehmarnbelt tunnel.
  • It will take about 8.5 years to build the Fehmarnbelt link
  • It will take ten minutes to travel from Denmark to Germany by car and seven minutes by train.
  • Motorists will be able to drive at 110 km/h in the tunnel. Electric trains will be able to go through at 200 km/h.
  • The construction budget for the Fehmarnbelt link is DKK 52.6 billion (2015 prices) in the construction law.

The Fehmarnbelt link will be user-financed. Revenues from the link will repay the loans that financed construction. This is the same model that financed the Storebælt and Øresund links. (Sources Wikipedia and femern.dk).

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