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Approval Granted for Germany-Denmark Tunnel

Friday, January 4, 2019

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The German Ministry of Transport of Schleswig-Holstein state recently granted approval for the construction of an 18-kilometer-long (11.18-mile-long) sunken-tube road and rail tunnel link that will connect north Germany to Denmark.

According to project sponsor Femern A/S, the $8 billion tunnel will be the longest of its kind in the world. The first agreements regarding the Fehmarn Belt tunnel date back to 2007, with a series of delays, including environmental concerns, pushing back the slated completion date.

Project History

In 2007, Danish and German transport ministers reached an agreement to let the tunnel project move forward. In 2008, the treaty was signed by the transportation ministers, and in 2009, construction was ratified by the Danish government, with the German government also approving work. In 2010, the selection of a tunnel over a bridge was announced.

In 2011, the German government announced that it would be further delaying the development of the railway link to the Fehmarn Tunnel until 2015 due to a reduction in infrastructure investment, a result of an economic crisis at the time. Criticism of the project has arisen throughout planning: Some feared a loss of jobs that would correlate with the loss in ferry traffic, while others cited concerns over impact to wildlife.

Denmark is funding most of the endeavor, while Danish Femern A/S is the project owner. The company was able to secure approval for building the tunnel in 2015, but complying with more stringent German procedures has taken longer.

Tunnel Specifics, Moving Forward

According to Femern A/S, the structure will be built as an immersed tunnel between Rødbyhavn on Lolland and the German island of Fehmarn. Unlike a bored tunnel, an immersed tunnel is composed of hollow concrete elements created on land, which are then assembled section by section to form the structure.

First, a trench measuring 60 meters (196 feet) wide, 16 meters deep and 18 kilometers long must be dredged, followed by each tunnel element, each weighing 73,000 tons, being sealed with bulkheads and floated into position. (The elements are able to float due to being hollow.) Once the tunnel has been assembled, additional technical work can be completed, which includes tracks for the electric trains, communications systems, lighting and other necessary equipment. A special element, located roughly every two kilometers of tunnel, will house operation and maintenance equipment.

A production facility located east of Rødbyhavn will house production halls, docks and a working harbor. The factory will also have eight production lines for casting the concrete elements. Nine segments will be joined together for form one element; one element will run 217 meters long. The tunnel will contain two railway tracks and two road tubes, with each road tube having a two-lane roadway and an emergency lane. A service and escape tube will be housed between the roadway tubes.

Moving forward, Femern A/S will take a couple of weeks to review the construction requirements sent out by the approval document. Paris-based VINCI Grand Projets is leading an eight-firm international consortium on tunnel construction and element fabrication. A four-firm Dutch/German consortium, led by Boskalis International B.V. Papendrecht, is tasked with dredging work.

The tunnel is slated for completion in 2028, though German project opponents could still appeal against the approval in the Federal Administrative Court.


Tagged categories: EU; Europe; Government; Infrastructure; Program/Project Management; Project Management; Tunnel

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