Denmark and Germany building world’s longest underwater tunnel

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(CNN) — Descending to a depth of 40 meters in the Baltic Sea, the world’s longest submerged tunnel will connect Denmark and Germany, significantly reducing travel times between the two when it opens in 2029.

After more than a decade of planning, construction on the Fehmarunbelt Tunnel began in 2020, and it’s been months since the completion of a temporary port on the Danish side. It hosts a factory that will soon build 89 massive concrete sections that make up the tunnel.

Henrik Vincentsen, CEO of Femern A/S, the Danish state-owned company responsible for the project, said: “By early 2024, we should be ready to dip the first tunnel element.”

The 18-kilometer (11.1-mile) long tunnel is one of Europe’s largest infrastructure projects, with a construction budget of over €7 billion ($7.1 billion).

By comparison, the 50-kilometer (31-mile) Channel Tunnel linking England and France, completed in 1993, cost the equivalent of £12 billion ($13.6 million) in today’s money. Although longer than the Fehmarnbelt Tunnel, the Channel Tunnel was made using his machine boring rather than dipping pre-built tunnel sections.

Built across the Fehmarnbelt, a strait between the islands of Fehmarn in Germany and Lolland in Denmark, it is designed as an alternative to the current ferry services from Rødby and Puttgarden, which carry millions of passengers each year. It now takes just 7 minutes by train and 10 minutes by car, instead of 45 minutes by ferry.

On June 8, 2022, the roof of the first production hall where the tunnel section will be built in Denmark was completed.

Femern A/S

travel faster

Officially named the Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link, the tunnel will be the longest combined road and rail tunnel in the world. It consists of two he two-lane highways and two he electrified railways separated by service corridors.

“If you were to travel from Copenhagen to Hamburg today by train, it would take you about four and a half hours” project. “Once the tunnel is complete, 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 trip by car would be about an hour faster than today, considering the time saved by not queuing for the ferry.

Kasland said the tunnel would not only benefit passenger trains and cars, but would also have a positive impact on freight trucks and freight trains. It will create a land route between Sweden and Central Europe that will be 160 kilometers shorter than it is today.

At the moment, traffic linking Scandinavia to Germany via Denmark can be done by ferry across the Fehmarnbelt or on longer routes via bridges between Zeeland, Huenen and Jutland.

work begins

The project dates back to 2008, when Germany and Denmark signed a treaty to build the tunnel. It then took more than a decade for the necessary laws to be passed in both countries and geotechnical and environmental impact studies to be carried out.

While the process was successfully completed on the Danish side, many organizations in Germany, including ferry operators, environmental groups and local authorities, have challenged approval of the project, citing unfair competition and environmental and noise concerns. I was.

Dredging work has started on the German coast in autumn 2021.

Dredging work has started on the German coast in autumn 2021.

Femern A/S

Federal Court of Germany, November 2020 dismissed “The ruling included a set of conditions that we had anticipated and prepared for, such as how the environment would be monitored during construction, noise and sediment runoff. We believe in . Minimize the impact on the environment, ”says Vincentsen.

A temporary harbor at the Danish site is now complete, and several other phases of the project are underway, including excavation of the actual trench that will host the tunnel, and construction of a factory that will build the tunnel section. Each section will be 217 meters long (about half the length of the world’s largest container ship), 42 meters wide and 9 meters high. Each weighs 73,000 tons, which is equivalent to more than 13,000 elephants.

“We have six production lines and the factory consists of three halls, the first of which is now 95% complete,” says Vincentsen. Sections are placed just below the seafloor, about 40 meters below sea level at the deepest point, and moved into position by barges and cranes. Placement of the section takes about three years.

wider impact

Up to 2,500 people work directly on construction projects, which are affected by global supply chain issues.

“The supply chain is a current challenge as the prices of steel and other raw materials are rising. We can get the materials we need, but it is difficult and contractors are trying to make sure we can supply them. We had to increase the number of suppliers in order to get what they needed. .

Michael Svane of the Danish Industry Confederation, one of Denmark’s largest business organizations, believes the tunnel will also benefit businesses outside of Denmark.

A full-scale prototype of the tunnel element completed in July 2022.

A full-scale prototype of the tunnel element completed in July 2022.

Femern A/S

“The Fehmarunbelt Tunnel will create a strategic corridor between Scandinavia and Central Europe. Upgraded rail transport means more freight moves from road to rail, making transport more climate-friendly. We see cross-border connectivity as a tool for creating growth and jobs, both locally and nationally,” he told CNN.

Some environmental groups have expressed concern about the tunnel’s impact on dolphins in the Fehmarnbelt, but Michael Løvendal Kruse of the Danish Society for the Conservation of Nature believes the project has environmental benefits. increase.

“As part of the Fehmarnbelt Tunnel, new natural areas and reefs will be created on the Danish and German sides. Let’s go,” he says.

“But the biggest advantage is the climate benefit. Faster belt transit makes trains a powerful challenger to air traffic. Electric train freight is by far the best solution for the environment. .”

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