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$8B Tunnel to Connect Denmark, Germany

Thursday, May 14, 2020

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Recently, the Danish Minister for Transport, Benny Engelbrecht, announced that construction on the Femern Belt link has been scheduled to begin on Jan. 1, 2021.

Designed to connect Denmark and Germany, the project is slated to be the longest immersed tunnel in the world.

About the Project

In 2007, Danish and German transport ministers reached an agreement to let the tunnel project move forward. In 2008, a 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.

However, by January 2019, the German Ministry of Transport of Schleswig-Holstein state granted approval for the construction of the tunnel.

Denmark is funding most of the 52.6 billion Danish crown ($7.6 billion) 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.

Although, in March of this year, the European Commission found that that multiple loans and aid given to Femern could be listed as state aid under EU competition rules. Changes made to the project included a maximum 9.3 billion euro amount of state debt in the first 16 years of operation.

In the month prior, Atkins, a member of the SNC-Lavalin Group, was appointed by Femern A/S to provide multidisciplinary railway consultancy services on the project. The agreement is slated to last eight years with potential for extension.

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.

Inside the tunnel, euronews reports that there will be an electrified double-track railway and a four-lane motorway, allowing trains and cars to cross under the Baltic Sea strait in just seven and ten minutes, respectively. The current ferry system is reported to take roughly an hour to travel. A service and escape tube will also be housed between the roadway tubes.

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.

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, has been tasked with dredging work.

What’s Happening Now

After being postponed several months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, officials claim that construction on the Danish side of the Fehmarn Tunnel will begin in January 2021.

In a statement issued by Engelbrecht, “a consenting settlement has decided that Fehmarn A/S can start the contracts that were signed in May 2016 with the contractor consortium Femern Link Contractors as conditional contracts.”

Adding that the tunnel element factory is expected to start production of the first tunnel elements at the beginning of 2023, with shipping and immersion of the tunnel pieces to take place at the beginning of 2024.

“It is a historical decision the settlement circle today has made to initiate the major construction contracts and start construction on the Danish side,” said Engelbrecht. “Now we will soon be able to see the major construction work underway at Rødbyhavn.”

Construction on the German side of the project is expected to break ground in mid-2022, with the tunnel slated to open to the public by mid-2029.


Tagged categories: EU; Europe; Government; Government contracts; Infrastructure; Infrastructure; Program/Project Management; Project Management; Rail; Transportation; Tunnel; Upcoming projects

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