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New undersea tunnel to go ahead

A short-ish tunnel that will dramatically reduce international journey times

The EU has given its approval for a 19km road and rail tunnel to link Denmark and Germany, with construction scheduled to begin in January 2016.

Currently unappetisingly-titled the ‘Fehmarn Belt Fixed Link’, the €8.7 billion tunnel is planned to connect the German island of Fehmarn with the Danish island of Lolland. Both islands are already well plugged into their respective national infrastructures.

Unlike the Channel Tunnel, which is only accessible to trains, the plan is to run a four-lane motorway through the tunnel, alongside a double track railway. And this tunnel is to be immersed, rather than bored; it will effectively lie in big pipes on the sea bed.

Germany of course already has a long land border with Denmark, but the latter’s archipelago of islands has always dictated tediously circuitous travel routes. The undersea tunnel creates straight-line access between Hamburg and Copenhagen, with an aimed-for travel time of just two hours.

Moreover the tunnel plus the existing Denmark-Sweden Øresund Bridge will bring mainland Scandinavia three hours closer to Germany, with a very substantial effect on the economies of the regions concerned.

The funding and construction of the tunnel is being led by Denmark, with contributions from the EU, whilst Germany is merely developing the land-based facilities on the German end. There will, of course, be a substantial toll.

One casualty, however, is likely to be the present ferry link between Gedser and Rostock, the only European ferry which still accommodates trains.

Tunnel security will need to be very tight. This will be the first general access international undersea tunnel in Europe, and as such will be an obvious target for terror attacks.

 

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