The Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link from coast to coast across the 20 km wide strait is to consist of an electrified double-track railway line and a four-lane road link. It will connect Puttgarden on the German island of Fehmarn and Rødby on the Danish island of Lolland. In addition, there will be the necessary road and railway hinterland connections in Germany and Denmark. It might start operation in 2028, provided that construction starts in 2020. After start of construction, which is projected for 1 January 2021 by Denmark, the Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link can probably be completed by mid-2029.
The Kingdom of Denmark is responsible for the construction, operation and financing of the structure. The link is to be funded by user charges. For this purpose, the Kingdom of Denmark may impose tolls for road use and charges for use of the railway lines.
State Treaty between Germany and Denmark
The Federal Government, in close cooperation with the state of Schleswig-Holstein, has concluded a State Treaty with Denmark on the delivery of the belt link, which was signed on 3 September 2008. The key message is that both sides undertake to do everything in their power to deliver the project. For the implementation of the Treaty, national approval procedures had to be carried out in Germany and Denmark.
In Germany, the Treaty was transposed into national law by the “Act of 17 July 2009 on the Treaty of 3 September 2008 between the Federal Republic of Germany and the Kingdom of Denmark on a Fixed Link across the Fehmarn Belt” (Federal Law Gazette II, p. 799). With the exchange of the instruments of ratification between the contracting states on 15 December 2009, the Treaty entered into force on 14 January 2010. In Denmark, the parliament adopted the national bill on the “Act on Project Planning for a Fixed Link over the Fehmarn Belt, with Associated Land Facilities in Denmark” on 26 March 2009. On 15 April 2009, the Queen of Denmark gave her royal assent to the Planning Act on the Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link.
In April 2009, the Danish Minister of Transport passed a law tasking the Femern A/S company with responsibility for preparatory work, studies and the planning/design for a Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link.
Femern A/S is part of Sund & Bælt Holding A/S, which is a fully state-owned enterprise of the Danish Ministry of Transport.
Chronology of developments
April 2020: In Denmark, the responsible parliamentary steering body decides to activate the main construction contracts for the tunnel and to start the construction works near Rødbyhavn. The Danish Transport Ministry announces in this regard that the construction works for the tunnel will begin on 1 January 2021, starting on the Danish side with the construction of the tunnel element factory, the tunnel portal on Lolland and the housing and administrative facilities. It states that due to the Corona crisis, it was practically impossible to start construction works already in mid-2020. As a consequence, it predicts that the opening of the Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link will now probably take place in mid-2029.
November 2019: During a bilateral meeting in Berlin, Danish Minister of Transport, Benny En-gelbrecht, and Federal Minister of Transport, Andreas Scheuer, underline their mutual commit-ment to the tunnel.
August 2019: Danish Minister of Transport, Benny Engelbrecht, and Minister of Transport of Schleswig-Holstein, Bernd Buchholz, visit the preparatory measures in Rødbyhavn and express their support of the project.
May 2019: The time limit for lodging an appeal against the plan approval decision expires. Eight appeals have been lodged at the Federal Administrative Court.
April 2019: The plan approval authority allows immediate enforcement for the German section of the tunnel for certain measures if appeals are lodged against the plan approval decision. This applies to preparatory measures such as drilling for the geotechnical investigation and environ-mental and species protection measures. On the German side, the first environment-related measures for the Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link are initiated.
April 2019: The planning documents for all plan approval sections of the hinterland rail connec-tion have been handed over by DB Netz AG to the Federal Railway Authority.
March 2019: The Danish Parliament tasks Femern A/S to conclude an agreement on the com-mencement of construction works on the Danish side with the consortiums which are to build the tunnel and releases funds so that, among other things, the construction of the tunnel element pro-duction site in Rødbyhavn, of the working harbour and the tunnel portal on the Danish side can begin.
January 2019: The Transport Ministry of Schleswig-Holstein announces that the plan approval was officially granted on 31 January 2019 and that the public exhibition will start in March 2019.
December 2018: On 28 December 2018, the Transport State Secretary of Schleswig-Holstein, Dr. Thilo Rohlfs, informs the public that, in the evening, the plan approval au-thority of Schleswig-Holstein, APV (Amt für Planfeststellung Verkehr), will send the draft plan approval of 1,200 pages for the tunnel structure between Puttgarden and Rødby with a length of just under 18 kilometres to the two developers, Femern A/S in Copenhagen and the Schleswig-Holstein Federal State Agency for Road Construction and Transport (LBV.SH) in Lübeck.
April 2018: DB Netz AG provides the Federal Railway Authority (EBA) with the de-sign documents for the first plan approval section of the tunnel's hinterland rail connec-tion. In the course of 2018, documents for two more plan approval sections are added.
March 2018: In a press statement, the Transport Minister of Schleswig-Holstein, Bernd Buchholz, announces that the second major plan revision procedure has been concluded and that, on the German side, the independent plan approval authority for transport (APV) is currently involved in weighing up all the interests, which is necessary for draft-ing the plan approval decision, thereby concluding the procedure in a legally secure way. He says that he expects the procedure to be concluded by the end of the year at the latest.
July 2017: In the course of the plan approval procedure, the second round of the public local inquiry is concluded.
May 2017: The inquiry involving the competent authorities (public agencies), affected landowners and other objectors, scheduled for 22 May to 27 July 2017 by the plan approval authority, begins.
February 2017: On 15 February 2017, Femern A/S and LBV-Lübeck reply to around 12,600 objections and submit these replies to the LBV-SH in Kiel, the competent plan approval authority.
July 2016: The public consultation procedure for the revised application documents begins. Objections in the context of the second participation procedure can be raised with the public consultation authority until 26 August 2016.
June 2016: Femern A/S (for the railway part of the tunnel) and the Lübeck establishment of the federal state agency for road construction and transport (LBV-Lübeck; for the road part of the tunnel) submit the official application to modify the plans to the federal state agency for road construction and transport (LBV-SH, public consultation authority) after updating the documents in the context of the first participation procedure.
May 2016: Femern A/S concludes four main construction contracts worth four billion euros with selected construction consortia. Whether the contracts will take effect, depends on the final German plan approval decision.
March 2016: Denmark’s parliamentary steering body gives Femern A/S a mandate to sign conditional contracts.
February 2016: Femern A/S presents an updated financial analysis. This analysis now estimates a total budget of 7 billion euros including reserves of 1 billion euros. Two different scenarios are examined, one in which construction works start in 2018 and one in which works start in 2020.
January 2016: Transport Minister Hans Christian Schmidt and Minister Dobrindt get together for a working meeting in Copenhagen.
November 2015: Conclusion of the public local enquiries; Femern A/S will now incorporate changes resulting from the inquiries into the plan approval documentation. The updated plan approval documents are to be submitted to the public consultation and plan approval authority in spring 2016.
October 2015: Reinhard Meyer, the Transport Minister of Schleswig-Holstein, informs the Danish parliament in Copenhagen and the new Transport Minister Hans Christian Schmidt about the current status of the plan approval procedure, explaining that due to the many objections and the necessary planning modifications resulting from them, a plan approval decision was expected only in 2017.
September 2015: Femern A/S announces that it will create several environmental supervisor posts. They will be points of contact for the environmental and tourism sectors and are supposed to ensure that the construction companies comply with all conditions.
August 2015: During their first meeting in Berlin, Federal Chancellor Merkel and Denmark’s new Head of Government, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, underline their mutual commitment to the realization of the Fehmarnbelt tunnel.
June 2015: The federal state agency for road construction and transport (LBV-SH) announces the dates for the meetings to discuss the objections and comments in the context of the plan approval procedure.
April 2015: At a meeting on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Bonn-Copenhagen Declaration, Chancellor Merkel and the Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt express their clear commitment to the joint project and underline its importance for the European Union.
April 2015: The Danish Parliament adopts the Building Act for the FBQ with a large majority, authorising Femern A/S to build and operate the tunnel. In Denmark, the Building Act also includes an environmental authorization of the project.
February 2015: The Danish Transport Ministry and the Federal Ministry for Transport and Digital Infrastructure file a joint application for funds from the European Commission for the construction of the Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link. The FBQ is part of the Trans-European Transport Network and belongs to the Scandinavian-Mediterranean TEN core network corridor.
February 2015: The Danish Transport Minister Magnus Heunicke and Federal Minister Alexander Dobrindt discuss the current situation. Both ministers confirm that the project itself is not called into question.
December 2014: The selected building consortia present their first bids. These involve unexpected cost increases compared to the financial analysis of November. Femern A/S is tasked with negotiating measures that could help reduce the costs with the consortia.
December 2014: Initial studies of the DB AG on the alignment selected during the spatial planning procedure suggest that the new railway line will be put into service in 2024. The Danish Transport Minister is informed.
November 2014: In the context of the preparatory work for the Danish Building Act, Femern A/S presents an updated financial analysis and an updated traffic forecast.
July 2014: In the course of the consultation procedure, more than 3,000 objections and comments have been received that need to be evaluated. Following this, dates for the public local inquiries will be set during which the comments will be discussed with the authors. A plan approval decision can only be issued after the consultation procedure is concluded.
Also May 2014: Beginning of the public exhibition of the plan approval documentation for the immersed tube tunnel in Germany. From 5 May to 3 July 2014, the documents are exhibited on the island of Fehmarn and in several local authorities and agencies that are affected by the Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link (consultation procedure). In addition, the application documents can be accessed on the Internet. During this period, competent authorities, environmental organisations and affected citizens can submit objections and comments to the plan approval authority LBV Kiel.
May 2014: The Federal State Government of Schleswig-Holstein presents the outcome of the spatial impact assessment procedure for the hinterland rail connection. After evaluating 8,300 comments, it is recommended to use the option of an alignment that bypasses the Baltic Sea resorts and several other places, since this is most consistent with the requirements of spatial planning. The recommendation has met with widespread public approval. The Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure has tasked DB AG to take over the further planning of the basis for the spatial planning option.
April 2014: Femern A/S receives the technical bids of the nine pre-qualified building consortia for the tunnel construction. Based on these, the construction companies are to draw up final bidding documents including price calculations by the end of the year.
March 2014: In Denmark and Northern Germany, information events are organized for small and medium-sized undertakings that qualify as suppliers for the construction of the tunnel.
October 2013: The plan approval application for the Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link in Germany is handed over by the project company Femern A/S in Kiel. The competent plan approval authority is the federal state agency for road construction and transport. The documents comprise more than 10,000 pages and 230 plans. 8,700 pages alone deal with environmental topics. Since November 2013, the documents have been available for inspection on the Femern A/S website.
May 2013: As part of a prequalification procedure launched in October 2012, nine consortia (including from Germany) are selected. They are to be invited to submit bids for the 4 major construction contracts at a later date. Tenders are invited for 4 contracts:
- deepening of the sea bed and land reclamation;
- construction of the northern section of the tunnel;
- construction of the southern section of the tunnel;
- construction of portals, ramps and shore facilities.
January 2013: In Schleswig-Holstein, a spatial planning procedure is conducted within the context of the planning for the German hinterland rail connection. The documents will be available for public inspection until 11 March 2013, and the public will have the opportunity to comment until 25 March 2013.
Also September 2012: Fehmarnbelt Days in Hamburg and Lübeck. During these 3 days, more than 600 participants discuss ideas, opportunities and perspectives for the Fehmarnbelt region. This event was organised by the Baltic Development Forum, the Fehmarnbelt Business Council (FBBC), the Fehmarnbelt Committee, Femern A/S, Femern Belt Development, Lübeck Chamber of Industry and Commerce and the STRING network.
September 2012: On 1 September 2012, Claus F. Baunkjær takes over from Leo Larsen as CEO of Femern A/S, with Mr Larsen continuing in his position as CEO of the parent company, Sund & Bælt Holding A/S.
April 2012: Femern A/S presents a revised schedule. According to this schedule, the opening date of the tunnel will be put back to the end of 2021, because the preparation of the approval procedure in Germany and Denmark is very complicated. Approval of the construction of the Fehmarnbelt tunnel is subject to compliance with European regulations and the laws and procedures that are in force in Germany and Denmark. As the transposition of EU directives differs significantly between the two countries, the need for coordination and detailed planning is considerably larger than expected.
January 2012: Femern A/S publishes a consolidated technical report detailing the main features of the four possible link options: immersed tunnel, cable-stayed bridge, suspension bridge and bored tunnel.
September 2011: The state of Schleswig-Holstein launches the Fehmarnbelt forum for dialogue to provide extensive information to all stakeholders as well as to the general public. The documentation from the meetings as well as documents on the issues covered can be found on the website of the forum.
August 2011: Femern A/S publishes a consolidated statement of costs. According to this statement, the construction of the immersed tunnel will require investment of 5.5 billion euros, and the Danish hinterland connection will cost approximately 1.1 billion (at 2008 prices). The repayment period is estimated to be 39 years.
June 2011: The Federal Minister of Transport, Building and Urban Development, Dr Peter Ramsauer, visits Eastern Holstein to see for himself the progress of the project and, in particular, of the hinterland rail connections.
May 2011: It is decided that Rødbyhavn will be the sole production site for the tunnel elements. The reason for this is EU Directive 85/337/EEC (EIA Directive), which states that environmental impact assessments (EIAs) must be carried out not only for the project itself but also at the production sites. This would have required additional planning and approval procedures and, in consequence, would have resulted in delays. The decision was therefore taken in favour of a single production site.
February 2011: The Danish Minister of Transport and the Danish Parliament decide to pursue the construction of an immersed tunnel as the preferred option for the link.
14 January 2010: The Treaty between the Federal Republic of Germany and the Kingdom of Denmark on a Fixed Link across the Fehmarn Belt - signed on 3 September 2008) - enters into force. Based on this, Denmark assumes responsibility for the planning, construction and funding of the crossing structure.
Hinterland connections in Germany
According to the State Treaty, the Kingdom of Denmark has the sole responsibility for the construction and financing of the hinterland connections of the Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link in the Kingdom of Denmark, and Germany has the sole responsibility for the connections in the Federal Republic of Germany.
In Germany, the hinterland road connection is to be established by upgrading the B 207 motorway to 4 lanes between the junctions of Heiligenhafen-Ost and Puttgarden. On 31 August 2015, plan approval was granted for the entire stretch yet to be built, with the exception of the Fehmarnsund Bridge. A complaint was filed against this decision.
For the hinterland rail connection, the competent federal state authority in Schleswig Holstein, in the course of a spatial planning procedure, conducted a review on the compatibility of different alignments with spatial planning objectives from January 2013 to May 2014. As a result, the planning authority of the state of Schleswig-Holstein regards the following option as the solution that is most consistent with the requirements of spatial planning:
- Bypasses for the Baltic Sea resorts of Timmendorf, Scharbeutz, Haffkrug and Sierksdorf without preserving the existing tracks
- Bypasses for Ratekau, Lensahn and Großenbrode; in the cases of Neustadt and Oldenburg, DB AG had already planned bypassing the existing tracks
- The new construction of 73 percent of the line has to be planned (55 of the 75 km between Bad Schwartau and Großenbrode - total length of the line is 89 km)
These bypasses are in particular justified with the protection of residents from noise and vibration. The Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure has tasked DB AG with drawing up further plans on the basis of the selected option immediately. In 2018, the plan approval procedure for the first plan approval sections was initiated. The documents for the remaining plan approval sections were drafted by April 2019. In order to ensure intensive early public participation for the project, the Federal State of Schleswig-Holstein has initiated a dialogue forum. This forum has been meeting since 2011 and has made it possible, among other things, to examine in advance demands from within the region with regard to feasibility, costs and construction time and to amalgamate them into key demands. At first, it was not possible for DB Netz AG to take into account demands concerning measures exceeding the scope required by law in its planning. After the German Bundestag decided, in July 2020, to provide an additional 232 million euros of funds for protective measures beyond the scope required by law, DB Netz AG can now include the adopted measures in its planning. Information on the planning process is available on the Deutsche Bahn AG website. The continuous double-track electrified line (with the exception of the Fehrmarnsund link) designed for speeds up to 200 km/h is to be put into service at the same time as the Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link.
In view of planned electrification of the line and the 2025 traffic forecast, stress tests have been carried out on the Fehmarnsund Bridge. These showed that the bridge would no longer meet future requirements. With the current traffic levels, however, there are no safety issues. Therefore, different new construction and reinforcement options for bridge and tunnel solutions were examined.
At the end of January 2020, an immersed combined rail and road tunnel was chosen as the pre-ferred option while maintaining the existing Fehmarnsund bridge for slower traf-fic/pedestrians/cyclists. Environmental studies for the Fehmarnsund link have also been conduct-ed since 2016.
With transport infrastructure projects of this magnitude, environmental impacts are unavoidable. It is therefore particularly important to address the project’s potential impacts in the ecologically sensitive Fehmarn Belt area. A number of requirements and conditions regarding the planning and construction of the structure ensure that adverse effects are avoided or minimised to the greatest extent possible.
Details on this topic can be found on the FEMERN A/S website, the company that is responsible for planning.
Trans-European Transport Network
Regulation (EU) No 1315/2013 of 11 December 2013 on Union guidelines for the development of the trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) lists the fixed link across the Fehmarn Belt as well as the landside connections in Germany and Denmark as parts of the TEN core network. At the same time, the Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link is a key element of the central north-south artery between Scandinavia and Central Europe within the Scandinavian-Mediterranean TEN core network corridor.
The EU Commission regards the Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link as one of the five most important cross-border projects of the TEN-T network (communication of 10 January 2014 (COM(2013) 940 final). So far, studies and preparatory work in Germany (in German) and Denmark have been subsidized with EU funds from the TEN-T programme (attachment only available in German). The European Commission has promised funding totalling around 590 million euros for the Fehmarnbelt Fixed Links as well as funding totalling around 120 million euros for the Danish hinterland rail connections until 2020.
Past and ongoing studies
In 1992, the Transport Ministers of Germany and Denmark agreed to conduct studies in order to create a common basis for the decision-making process regarding the Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link. Since then, comprehensive feasibility studies for the Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link project (civil engineering, geology, environment, traffic forecast, macroeconomic and fiscal assessment, socio-economic regional study) have been conducted.
In the spring of 2000, an enquiry of commercial interest was conducted to explore the possibilities for delivery of the Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link by the private sector. To narrow down the risk factors listed in the enquiry of commercial interest, the traffic forecast was updated and the revenue from rail transport was reassessed. Subsequently, two of the models presented in the enquiry of commercial interest were recalculated based on the updated assumptions.
In the course of a review of the requirement plans in November 2010, the Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link was once again subjected to a value for money assessment. The result was a benefit-cost ratio of 6.7 This confirmed that the project represents extremely good value for money. The assessment was carried out on the basis of the forecast of Germany-wide transport interconnectivity in 2025. The cost-benefit analysis applied is a macroeconomic appraisal procedure. The analysis was carried out in an identical way for all evaluated rail projects.