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Femern A/S

Work status on the Fehmarnbelt tunnel

02-06-17

At a length of 18 km, the Fehmarnbelt fixed link will be the world’s longest immersed tunnel and the longest tunnel for both road and rail traffic. It is a huge project in all respects.

We are, in fact, ready to get construction underway on the Danish side. The main Danish environmental studies are in place and the plans for the major production facilities on Lolland have been drawn up. It has been documented and checked that the project’s finances are in order after the construction costs were renegotiated and reduced by DKK 7 billion. The Construction Act has been adopted and construction contracts have been signed with our highly skilled tunnel contractors. Construction of the Danish railway landworks between Ringsted and Rødby is already underway.   

On the German side, the Fehmarnbelt project has been adopted politically, but we still need to secure the administrative construction permission from the authorities in Kiel. There is no way around that. However, we will soon pass another key date in the German process. Yes indeed, the German process is moving forward.  

There are many sound reasons for the Fehmarnbelt project.  

Denmark is, of course, a country made up of many islands. For that reason alone, efficient links between the various parts of the country and to our neighbouring countries are crucial.  Basically, it’s all about developing our transport systems, so that the Danish business community and all other travellers benefit from the new opportunities for fast, flexible and safe transport in the future.

The Fehmarnbelt fixed link will change our geography and open up entirely new possibilities. Once construction is complete, we will, for example, be able to travel by train between Copenhagen and Hamburg in just 2½ hours compared to 4½ hours today. Suddenly, it will be possible to travel by train between these two major cities and return on the same day, which will make a real difference. We're moving closer together.

The aim is also to encourage environmentally friendly rail freight transport in Europe, which is why the EU is funding the tunnel project in a major way - to the tune of several billion kroner. In time, international freight trains between Scandinavia and the Continent will save 160 km by driving through the Fehmarnbelt tunnel rather than take the longer route via the Storebælt Bridge across Funen and Jutland. This will free up crucial capacity for Danish passenger trains between Jutland, Funen and Zealand. There will be greater scope for travelling between the Danish regions once the Fehmarnbelt project is completed.  

Motorists will save almost one hour each way on their journey across the Fehmarnbelt. That thousands of motorists will benefit from shorter travelling times will positively impact the socio-economic equation. The individal motorist will also benefit from being able to access the tunnel 24/7/365 and arrive in the neighbouring country in 10 minutes. 

And then, of course, it shouldn’t be forgotten that the project will create thousands of jobs during the long construction period. And for every job created by the main contractors, there will be an additional job with the local and regional sub-contractors. There will certainly be no shortage of work. .

The Fehmarnbelt fixed link will be user financed for 36 years through the state guarantee model, which was also used for the Storebælt and Øresund fixed links. Resources will also be available for the Danish landworks between Ringsted and Rødby from the profits from the tunnel. This means that both the tunnel and the new railway between Ringsted and Rødby will be financed by the tunnel’s future users from Germany, Denmark, Sweden and other countries at no cost to the Danish tax payer or other public transport projects in Denmark. 

However, although the benefits of building largescale fixed links are great, so are the challenges. This is particularly the case when, like the Fehmarnbelt fixed link, the project is transnational. 

Achieving the necessary environmental approval in Germany occupies almost all our employees at Femern A/S. The work is extensive and complex because the German system for granting construction permission for major infrastructure projects is completely different from Denmark’s. We respect this, which is why we have approached the task with great thoroughness.  

Our 14,000 page planning application was submitted for public consultation in Germany in 2016 and a total of 12,600 objections and comments were received. By way of comparison, when the project description was sent for public consultation in Denmark, we received 42 objections and comments.  

We have now read all 12,600 documents and have been through all viewpoints: some fill several hundred pages. It is with a certain amount of pride, therefore, that on 15 February 2017, we are in a position to convey the results of our review to the authorities in Schleswig-Holstein in order for us to progress with this complex process. This is what we promised the German authorities in the autumn of 2016 and we’re delivering on that promise.   

We are collaborating with some of the most esteemed experts in law, the environment, navigation and safety to ensure that our German application is of the highest quality. In fact, we have 150 experts and specialists who are involved in providing responses to the German objections. We’re fully committed to the debate and we’re proud of our work. 

In addition to responding to the many objections, we have been active in Germany. We have offices in Burg on the island of Fehmarn, in the state capital Kiel and in the federal capital Berlin and we do whatever we can to keep people informed about the project through weekly meetings in Germany. 

Also, several opinion polls show that the rumours about all Germans being against the Fehmarnbelt fixed link are very much exaggerated. The majority of Germans support the Fehmarn project, but there are also many who have not yet taken a view and we need to do something about this. We want to be even more active in Germany: we have a great deal to communicate.  

There is still some way to go, but we can glimpse the finishing line ahead. On both sides of the Fehmarnbelt, much effort is being made to complete the Fehmarn project as quickly as possible. It’s an undertaking that we can - and must - solve together. The good thing is that we all know that the Fehmarnbelt tunnel will come.