Fehmarn Belt Tunnel to be Built

East of the Fehmarn Bridge. At this spot is where a new bridge would be built but at the expense of the nearby shipping dock and a road going to Strutkamp

German Federal Court rules in favor of multi-billion Euro project; Construction may begin.

LEIPZIG/ FEHMARN/ FLENSBURG- It’s supposed to be the longest tunnel in Europe, at 18 kilometers (11.3 miles), carrying train and vehicular traffic. Instead of bottlenecks going through Fehmarn Island and a 45-minute ferry ride between Puttgarden and Rodby, the trip would be 10 minutes. The time from Hamburg to Copenhagen reduced from five hours to only three.  Yet the project has been an eyesore and a platform for hefty debates for over a decade between those favoring the project and those opposing it. Their arguments: noise pollution due to a high increase in traffic, irreversal damage to the reefs in the Belt region between the Danish island of Lolland and Fehmarn, and the endangerment of porpoise, and financial ruin due to construction.

Now the German Federal Court has decided: The Tunnel can be built.  The ruling happened in Leipzig today, putting the decade long battle to a permanent end. The argument was that the contract between Denmark and Germany was signed in 2008 and ratified a year later. Denmark has already received the green light to build the tunnel since 2015 and will bear the majority of the cost- namely, 7.1 billion Euros- for building the mammouth structure that will run below the sea floor and will feature two parallel tunnels- one for vehicular traffic and one fort rain traffic. Germany will cover 3.1 billion in costs for rail tracks and for widening the highway. According to the court, the contract cannot be rescinded.

With the green light to replace the Fehmarn Bridge on the south end of the island, the plan to complete the entire stretch of the Motorway 1 from Hamburg to Copenhagen will be realized. Currently, only a 15 kilometer stretch of non-freeway route exists between Oldenburg on the main land and Puttgarden on the island, minus the ferry route, all of it is two-lanes with only one exit and one half-exit going to Burg, the largest community on Fehmarn Island.

Once a one-track route, the construction of the tunnel on both ends of Fehmarn Island will allow for the expansion of the rail line between Lübeck and Fehmarn to allow for two tracks to run along the Baltic Sea coast. Currently, only the line between Lübeck and Hamburg as well as from Ringsted to Copenhagen are electrified; the rest of the route- Ringsted to Rodby and Lübeck to Fehmarn require diesel locomotives to operate. Since December 2019, no train ferries between Puttgarden and Rodby have operated resulting in long-distance trains to detour via Neumünster, Flensburg, Pattburg and Kolding (Denmark), while regional trains end in Burg on Fehmarn Island. It is hoped that regional trains will use the new route and the route to Fehmarn will remain in use.

Strutkamp, located next to the Migratory Route and 1 km north of Fehmarn Bridge. This village would be a memory if a new bridge is built to replace the 1963 span.

The entire project, with tunnels connecting Fehmarn with Denmark and the German mainland, a motorway with four lanes and rail lines to accommodate regional and long-distance train services is expected to be completed by 2029. Already Denmark has marched ahead with its end of the tunnel. With Leipzig’s ruling, construction will begin on the German side for the Belt Tunnel project. It is hoped that noise barriers and mitigation of flora and fauna will be considered during this venture, considered the most expensive in Europe as of yet.

If there is one consolation, the Fehmarn Bridge, connecting the island with the German mainland, will remain as is, once the German tunnel is completed. Built in 1963, the world’s first basket weave tied arch bridge was rehabilitated in 2019 with the plan of leaving it open for local traffic, including cyclists and pedestrians. It’s considered not only the icon for Fehmarn and for the state of Schleswig-Holstein, but also for bridge engineering, as it’s being used as a model for other bridges of its kind that are either being built or will be built in the near future. This includes the Levansau Bridge near Kiel, spanning the Baltic-North Sea Canal. The replacement is scheduled to be built come 2021.

The Fight to Save Fehmarn Island from Progress

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Co-produced with sister column The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles

FEHMARN, GERMANY-   Last fall, the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles did a segment on the preservation of the Fehmarn Bridge, the first bridge in the world that carries the now popular basket-handle tied arch bridge span. The battle is part of the series where residents of Fehmarn Island are fighting with both the German and Danish governments to stop a project where the Migratory Bird Route, connecting Hamburg and Copenhagen, would be widened- both the highway and the railway. This includes new bridges to replace the Fehmarn Bridge and a tunnel on the opposite end connecting Puttgarden (D) and Rodby (DK). And lastly an industrial areal was planned for the island.  Unfortunately, despite the Areal being blocked earlier this year, the European Union, according to reports from the BBC, has given Denmark the green light to start the construction of the tunnel, by providing 589 million Euros in the next four years for the project.

Yet while the Danes are prepared to start work beginning this fall, residents of the island and the surrounding area along the Baltic Sea coast are up in arms against the project and have started their own initiative to stop the project.

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Tourists and locals have seen the blue X’es popping up in neighborhoods, along highways and beaches and even in the skies between Hamburg and Lübeck and the island itself. The Blue-X Initiative was adopted by the groups Preserve Fehmarn and Beltretter, with the purpose of showing support for preserving the island and stopping the project from taking place. Almost one in every three households have this on their lawns as a way of demonstrating solidarity against the project. And there are many reasons for this initiative:

1. The construction of the tunnel would coincide with the expansion of the highway and rail line going through the island as well as the construction of the new Fehmarn Bridge, resulting in the island becoming a construction site. As small as the island is, and with the economy being dependent almost solely on tourism, analysts predict a loss of up to 800 million Euros (or close to $1 billion) in revenue during the time of the construction because of loss of tourism and commerce, plus additional money to improve the island’s imagery once the project was completed, which could take years to complete.

2. The project would involve a loss of sensitive vegetation and marine life that would be immense and possible irreplaceable. This includes the plan to scrap the underground tunnel similar to the Euro-Tunnel connecting France and Great Britain in favor of one above the sea floor, similar to the Oresund Bridge and Tunnel between Copenhagen and Malmö (Sweden), which could be devastating to marine life alone. The width of the construction area between Puttgarden and Fehmarn Bridge would average approximately five kilometers. The maximum width of the island is only 21.8 kilometers- and this given the size of the land to be 185 squared kilometers!

3. Some discreptancies in the environmental and economic impact surveys conducted by Denmark have resulted in rechecking the figures. Alone with the economic impact survey released in January 2015 led to a debate on the credibility of both the Danish government, the conglomerate spearheading the tunnel initiative Fehmarn A/S, and even the European Union. While both Denmark and the EU claim that the new crossings would produce a revenue of 4-5% of the gross domestic product in the region or approximately 3.48 billion Euros ($5.5 billion), other surveys indicate that the loss of revenue through construction combined with years of recovery, the new crossing would net an annual loss of 6.7 billion Euros ($8.2 billion). For the residents on the island, the risk would be too high to take.

4. While there is a one-track rail line that is suitable for transport between Hamburg and Copenhagen including the time needed to cross via ferry, there is another border crossing at Flensburg and Padborg, where they feature a freeway and a two-track rail line connecting Hamburg with Aarhus with a arm going to Copenhagen via Odense. At the present time, improvements are being made in the Flensburg area to make the crossing more attractive. While the logic behind expanding the line through Fehmarn is there, little do government authorities realize that Fehmarn is a vacation and natural area whose need for a freeway/ two-track crossing on both ends of the island would devastate the natural habitat and impact tourism negatively. In other words, better to go through Flensburg if you wish to stay on the freeway going to Denmark and not stop to go swimming.

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While officials in Denmark are preparing to start building the tunnel from the Rodby end, officials in Germany are in the process of discussing the project with many parties involved. This after the application for the construction of the new Fehmarn Bridge, new freeway and tunnel was submitted to the state ministry of transport. The communities affected will have a meeting in September, followed by the environmental groups, including BeltRetter in November and residents affected by the construction afterwards. The ministry will then review the opinions and information provided by those affected before making their decision- a process that could take up to a year.  Proponents of the project have already received a backing from The German Railways (The Bahn) and German Minister of Transport Alexander Dobrindt, the former wanting to expand and electrify its rail line to run more ICE-Trains on there.

But with the opposition towards the project crystalizing and spreading beyond the region, problems will most likely excaberbate over the course of two years, especially when the blue X’es sprout up everywhere making the area as blue as possible. Since blue is the sign of clear water, the water people deserve to swim in and marine life to inhabit, it also is a sign of preserving things as they are. With more initiatives coming up and more support pouring in, there is a chance that the project could be stalled further or even scrapped. If this is the case, then there will still be some work to be done with its current infrastructure to keep it up to date, but residents will breathe a sign of relief, for having a mega-highway for the sake of expanding commerce is not necessarily what they want. In fact with all of information on the negative impacts, combined with questions involving the credibility of the sources, this project in the end will do more harm to the region than good. This is something no one is willing to gamble on.

The Flensburg Files and the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles are proud to support the initiative to preserve Fehmarn Island and its places of interest. Both columns will provide you with further updates on the latest involving the project. If you wish to take part in the initiative and want to donate for the right cause, please click on the following links. There you have information on how you can help.

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Bewahrt Fehmarn (Preserve Fehmarn)

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Special thanks to Mirko Kaminski for the use of the photos, as well as Karin Neumann and Hendrick Kerlen for their help in contributing some valuable information for this story.   

Fehmarn Island Spared from Industrial Areal

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Burgstaaken (Fehmarn) at Sundown. Photo taken in 2014

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Burg (Fehmarn)-  In the last 20 years, attempts have been made to turn the largest island in Germany, located northeast of Oldenburg in Schleswig-Holstein at the border to Denmark, into an industrial area, especially in the northern half of the island. And since last summer, a petition was made to put the proposal up to vote, which was granted on March 8. The question was whether profits from the new industrial area would make sense or whether it is best to keep the island as is and feed its profits from tourism and environmentalism. In other words, do they want the industry or not.

The majority spoke for the latter- and by an enormous number of votes!

Voters on the 8th voted unanimously to reject the proposal by the conglomerate Baltic FS to establish an industrial area in the northern part of the island with an average vote of two thirds favoring the annullment of the agreement with the firm and less than a third for the agreement. The plan would have allowed companies to establish their facilities on 15 acres of land between Puttgarden and Marienleuchte, which would have resulted in the widening of the Migratory Route (Vogellinie) between Hamburg and Lübeck to the south and Copenhagen in the north.  The majority that voted against the proposal were concerned about the increase in air and noise pollution caused by the establishment of several small firms as well as the subsequential increase in traffic, and that the environmentally sensitive region would sustain significant damage as a result. Proponents of the proposal wanted additional revenue to that coming from the tourism section, which is the main source of income. Yet because of the haste in planning by Baltic FS combined with questions about the affects of the Areal being answered vaguely or even left out, the majority of the residents of Fehmarn voted to cut the cord on the deal. The proposal, according to the news source Fehmarn Heiligenhafen is now on ice for at least two years, but attempts are being made by the Initiative Bewahrt Fehmarn (Preserve Fehmarn) to ensure that the Areal plan is off the table for good, together with the widening of the Vogellinie route and with that, a new bridge over the Fehmarn Sound to the south west of Burgstaaken and a new tunnel to the north at Puttgarden. Should this plan be successful, it is most likely that the Areal may be scrapped or even relocated. The Danish town of Rodby in Lolland may be the best place for the district, if the latter is proposed, given its strategic location.

 

Fehmarn Tunnel and Bridge on Ice?

In addition to the good news regarding the Areal, work on the Fehmarn Tunnel between Puttgarden and Rodby (Denmark) as well as the proposal for building a new Fehmarn Bridge between Burgstaaken and mainland Germany has been stalled for political reasons. According to sources from the Lübecker Nachricht newspaper as well as from the Initiative Bewarht Fehmarn, work on the new 18-kilometer long tunnel will most likely start in 2018 with the completion being in 2024. This will be three years later than scheduled. Reason for the delay is the debate on the future of the Fehmarn Bridge on the south end. According to an article produced by sister column The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles, the 1963 basket-weave tied arch bridge was the very first bridge of its kind built, setting the stage for several more similar structures that have been built since then and three more to be built in the next five years; one of which is the Levansau Bridge west of Kiel. The German Railways (Die Bahn), owners of the bridge, wants two new bridges- one for railway traffic and one for the motorway and relieve its duties in maintaining the bridge- possibly even tearing it down. Residents are against the proposal for the bridge as it is one of the main icons of the island, plus it would mean residents losing acres of land and pollution setting in from an increase in traffic. While the tunnel proposal is on the table, it has not been etched in stone due to opposition and costs for the project, which politicians in Berlin are debating. While the bridge is expected to handle traffic for another 30 years at the most, according to sources, work is underway to determine what needs to be done with the bridge to prolong its life further, while at the same time ensure that the island does not witness an increase in volume of traffic through the tunnel or three-bridge solution and with that, the conversion of the two-lane road into a motorway, something the majority of residents are opposed to.

More on the Fehmarn Bridge you’ll find via Bridgehunter’s Chronicles by clicking on the logo below:

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The Flensburg Files and its sister column will keep you informed on the developments in the Fehmarn Region. Yet the Initiative Bewahrt Fehmarn needs your help and support. For more on how to help, please go to their facebook page and contact the people involved to see how you can help.