The Fixed Fehmarnbelt Connection: Getting ahead in 2018

Sep 29, 2019 | Infrastrukture

Although the project approval is still lacking for the tunnel construction in Germany, the project is well on its way on both sides of the Fehmarnbelt.

Schleswig-Holstein’s Minister for Transport, Bernd Buchholz means business: The approval authority, that was formerly part of the Planning Authority Landesbetrieb Strassenbau und Verkehr Schleswig-Holstein / LBV-SH has been removed and is now named APV – Amt für Planfeststellung und Verkehr and is linked directly to the Ministry itself. The APV will promote the minister’s declared goal: German authority approval for the Fehmarnbelt tunnel construction in the summer of 2018.

The tunnel opponents have already announced, however, that they will challenge the approval of the Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig. By experience, the estimate is that such a lawsuit may take up to two years.

Construction clients Femern A/S have already signed contracts with the construction consortia in 2016. Both Femern A/S and the contractors are following the German approval process closely. Meanwhile, they are preparing the technical part of the construction process.


Activities on the hinterland connections

The planning and construction of the hinterland connections is in full motion. In Germany, route B207 between the end of the A1 motorway at Heiligenhafen to Puttgarden is to be expanded to a four-track motorway. A government approval has already existed since August 2015. However, citizen initiatives and environmental organizations have placed a complaint with the High Administrative Court in Schleswig. Due to an ongoing planning process, which must be part of the trial, it is unclear whether the trial can begin in 2018 or not.

On the German part of the Fehmarn rail track between Puttgarden and Bad Schwartau, which consists of an original but expanded part and a new line along the A1 motorway, the planning is under way. Currently, Deutsche Bahn Netze / DB is preparing track planning and approval planning for the track’s eight approval sections. However, the planning is currently delayed by approximately four months. The reason being that DB in its documentation must add the latest municipal plans for noise reduction. These proposals go beyond the limits laid down by the law and DB therefore expects to start the approval process in March 2018.

The Fehmarnsund Bridge is a bottleneck and a challenge. Already in 2010, it was apparent that the listed bridge should be renovated. Later, it became clear that the bridge will not be able to cope with the load of additional trains and vehicles after the opening of the Fehmarnbelt tunnel. As of now there is ongoing renovation work on the bridge. Once the state of the bridge and its longevity is clear, probably later in the summer of 2018, this will be included in an assessment of how a new Fehmarnsund connection should be constructed. The solutions must include a possible use of the old listed Fehmarnsund Bridge as part of the project. A final proposal is expected to be ready by the end of 2018.


Denmark is ahead – but …

In Denmark, the plan is for the new rail track between Copenhagen and Ringsted is to open in May 2019. Professional media, however, have reported a number of problems in connection with the establishment of a new signal system. The Danish state railways have not yet ordered new electric trains that can fully utilize the route.

According to Banedanmark, upgrading of the Ringsted-Fehmarnbahn between Ringsted and Fehmarn includes upgrades at speeds of 250 km/h with new double trains and a new signal system ERTMS in 2021. The Storstrøm Bridge, which the route will pass, will not be ready. According to the Danish Road Directorate’s plans, the bridge must be completed by 2024 and at that time the entire rail track must also be electrified.

The expansion of the remaining part of the route between Nykøbing F. and Holeby/ the Fehmarnbelt Tunnel should be adapted to the opening of the Fixed Fehmarnbelt connection. The final schedule is not yet known.


Clouds above the Storstrøm Bridge

The new Storstrøm Bridge is a prioritized project adding up to 2.1 billion Danish Crowns. Now difficulties have arisen: Two of the three companies in the Italian construction consortium have been accused of corruption by an Italian court. One of the three companies in the consortium – Condotte – is also undergoing a reorganization. The Danish State’s lawyer has gone into the case, but at the beginning of January, they concluded that the case does not justify the Danish government to transfer the contract to one of the other bidders. Nevertheless, the signing of the contract was postponed in the first place.

However, the parliamentary majority behind the Storstrøm Bridge has decided today (31 January) to support that the Danish Road Directorate can now sign the contract with the designated Italian contractor consortium, but the contractor Condotte will pull out, so the Ministry of Transport reports.

Since the consortium did not reach the deadline today, January 31 at noon, stating that it is possible for Condotte to sign the contract, Condotte is expected to be withdrawn from the contract and that the Danish Road Directorate will finalize an agreement with the other two contractors.

The contract will include clauses on self-cleaning and abolition. The winning consortium provides a total guarantee of 480 million Danish Crowns, an amount corresponding to 23 percent of the total contract amount. The agreement will allow construction work to start in 2018 and ensure that a new Storstrøm Bridge can be completed in 2022 (road) and in 2023 (track section).


Scandlines for sale?

Persistent speculation in British, German and Danish media has reported of a quick sale of the ferry company Scandlines, which today sails the ferry routes across the Fehmarnbelt between Rødby-Puttgarden and Gedser-Rostock. Scandlines itself confirms that the owner, the British investment company 3i, always has the shipping company on the ‘sales list’. The British press reports that 3i has hired the venerable British financial advisory group Rothschild to find a suitable buyer and to handle the entire sales process.

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