(CNN) – After more than half a decade of planning, work has begun on the longest tunnel in the world. Falling 40 meters below the Baltic Sea, the Fehmarnbelt tunnel will connect Denmark and Germany, reducing travel time when it opens in 2029.
The 18-kilometer (11.1-mile) tunnel is one of Europe’s largest infrastructure projects, with a construction budget of more than 7 billion ($ 8.2 billion).
It will be built across the Fehmarn Belt, a transit point between Germany’s Fehmarn Island and Denmark’s Lolland Island, and is designed as an alternative to the current ferry service from Rødby and Puttgarden, which carries millions of passengers each year. Where this crossing takes 45 minutes by ferry, it takes only 7 minutes by train and 10 minutes by car.
Officially known as the Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link, it will also be the longest combined tunnel and train in the world. It will include two two-lane railways – service junctions – and two-lane railways.
“Today, if you want to travel by train from Copenhagen to Hamburg, it will take about four and a half hours,” said Jens Ole Kaslund, technical director at Femern A / S. Program. “Once the tunnel is completed, the same journey will take two and a half hours.
“There are a lot of people flying between the two cities today, but in the future it would be better to use the train alone,” he added.
Traveling by the same bus will take about an hour faster than today, taking into account the time saved by not boarding the ferry.
Aerial photo of Fehmarnbelt, taken from the German side, on top of Fehmarn.
Jan Kofod Winther
In addition to the benefits for trains and buses, the tunnel will have a positive impact on trucks and light rail, as it creates a land route between Sweden and Central Europe that will be 160 km shorter than today.
At this time, traffic between the Scandinavian Peninsula and Germany via Denmark could take the ferry across the Fehmarnbelt or the longer route over the bridge between New Zealand, Funen and the Jutland Peninsula.
The project dates back to 2008, when Germany and Denmark signed a treaty to build the tunnel. It then spent half a decade on the necessary weed legislation to be adopted by both countries and for geological and environmental impact studies.
An initial verdict is expected before the end of the year; Although it will not be able to stop or change the project significantly, it could force further impact studies before construction begins in Germany.
In the meantime, amid security measures from Covid-19, construction work began in the summer on the Danish side.
“The project was organized in such a way that we had to work for a few years in Denmark before we entered German territory,” Kaslund said.
The port is under construction in Rødbyhavn, on Lolland, and in early 2021 a plant will be built behind it, with six production lines to assemble 89 sections of large concrete tunnel to be constructed.
Each section will be 217 meters long (about half the length of the largest cargo ship in the world), 42 meters wide and 9 meters high. At 73,000 tons of pods each, it will have more pods than 13,000 elephants.
Parts were placed under the sea floor, about 40 meters below sea level at the deepest point, and moved into place by boat and canoe.
Up to 2,500 people will work directly on the construction project, which is expected to enter the actual production phase of the tunnel section by 2023. The installation of the parts will take about three years.
Michael Svane of the Danish Confederation of Industry, one of Denmark’s largest business entities, believes the tunnel will benefit businesses outside of Denmark itself.
“The Fehmarnbelt tunnel will create a strategic corridor between the cities of Scandinavia and Central Europe. The relocation of railways means more cargo from the railroad to the railways, facilitating a more environmentally friendly mode of transport. He is not only local, but also national,” he said.
“Part of the Fehmarnbelt tunnel, natural areas and rock formations on both sides of Denmark and Germany will be built. Nature needs space and there will be plenty of space for nature,” he said.
“But the biggest benefit is the benefits to the climate. Fast belt travel will make trains a serious challenge for air traffic, and electric freight is the best solution for the environment.”