Fehmarn: Delay due to several reasons

24/03/2015

The Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link is a Danish project according to the state treaty between Denmark and Germany, including the design and engineering, the construction and the financing. However, this is at a first glance only: Parts of the tunnel and some of the road and rail links will lie on German soil.

Indeed, we are in the European Union. But that does not mean that large European cross-border infrastructure projects can be adopted and approved in a flash. A mega project such as the Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link necessitates the participation of various organisations because the project needs to be approved in both Germany and Denmark.

And the differences: While the approval and framework for the funding is built on legislation, the approval on the German side is a judicial and administrative process.

Both countries have public hearings regarding the environmental and proprietorial aspects of the project.

Coast to coast delay

It was recently made public that the Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link could become delayed with up to three years. The main reason was, according to Transport Ministers of both countries, that Germany had decided on an alternative track solution from the Fixed Link to Lübeck and Hamburg.

The authorities’ approval of the German road connection is on track time-wise. This means that we are left without a decision on how to eliminate the bottleneck of the Fehmarnsund Bridge, in German called “the hanger”. This bridge has only two lanes for road traffic and a single track for rail connecting the island of Fehmarn with the German mainland.

Jump in price and delays

The Danish construction (i.e. most of the tunnel itself) will become more expensive than expected, it recently transpired. Therefore, the offer of the tunnel consortia has to be renegotiated to a lower price. A lower price will be attainable through a longer building period, according to the Danish Ministry of Transportation and Femern A/S.

Due to the German delay on the rail tracks, the Danish track work between Ringsted and Rødby has been delayed with at least one year. This gives time for the Danish construction work to be aligned with the timing of the German construction work.

New track routes

The state treaty prescribes an electrification of the existing one-tracked railway along the German coastal towns and an upgrade to a two-tracked rail within seven years of the tunnel opening. However, both citizens’ initiatives and an active government in Schleswig-Holstein have worked towards an alternative track route along the motorway from Hamburg to Fehmarn.

In addition, this route of tracks is now planned to be a double tracked, fully electrified railway and to ready at 2024 – only three years after the original planned date of the tunnel opening – not seven years, as per the state treaty.

New route planning

The new tracks have been examined since 2010 through a so-called ROV, Raumordnungsverfahren, in Schleswig-Holstein. This procedure is an examination and documentation of under which extent and in which specific geography, such a project could be implemented. The result of the ROV was presented in May 2014 as part of the state of Schleswig-Holstein’s recommendation to the German Federal Government and to Deutsche Bahn.

Both parties have followed the recommendations. The first plans for a final development and approval planning have already begun.

The new tracks will mean that 70 percent of the new route will consist of new tracks built from scratch. This will of course have far reaching and complex consequences for the planning of the construction work and the overall time frame.

Current timeline for the German rail construction:

  • Examination of new track route (ROV) along the motorway and recommendation in Schleswig-Holstein: Completed May 2014
  • Preliminary planning of new track route: Finalised late March/early May 2015.
  • Start of final development and approval planning: Spring 2015
  • Start legislative procedure with authorities (parts of stretches): Late 2016
  • Start bidding of construction works (on authority approved stretches): Mid 2018
  • Construction start (in stretches): 2019
  • Finalised two-tracked, electrified rail between Lübeck and Puttgarden: 2024

 (Sources: DB Netz / Infrastruktur).

Should a time lapse occur between the opening of the tunnel and an operation of the railway, Deutsche Bahn, BaneDanmark, authorities and logistics organisations are already working on concepts for the operation of the actual running on the tracks in such a situation. This includes the question of whether freight trains are able to pass the tunnel at this point of time.