Visualiation of the railway connecting to the Fehmarnbelt tunnel

Shortcut to Denmark: DB starts rail construction to Fehmarnbelt tunnel

Visualiation of the railway connecting to the Fehmarnbelt tunnel Deutsche Bahn / Rambøll

Deutsche Bahn (DB) has started construction of the railway connection upgrade to the future Fehmarnbelt tunnel. This tunnel under construction will form a shortcut to Danish capital Copenhagen across the Fehmarn strait. The travel time between Hamburg and Copenhagen will be cut from 4.5 hours to 2.5 hours when the tunnel and rail connection are finished in 2029.

The railway connection which DB started constructing is the crucial link between the tunnel, which connects Lolland in Denmark with the German island of Fehmarn, and the mainland in the German state Schleswig-Holstein.

The Danish company Femern A/S is building the Fehmarnbelt tunnel. The German Federal government, the state of Schleswig-Holstein, Deutsche Bahn and the European Union are jointly investing around 3.5 billion euros in the project. With 18.2 kilometres, the Fehmarnbelt tunnel will be the world’s longest immersed tunnel for both vehicles and trains.

From left to right: DB Infrastructure Director Berthold Huber, State Secretary in the Federal Ministry for Digital and Transport Susanne Henckel, Schleswig-Holstein’s Prime Minister Daniel Günther and Philippe Chantraine as a representative of the EU give the starting signal for the rail connection

Track expansion

The official starting signal for the construction of the railway link was given this Thursday by DB Infrastructure Board Member Berthold Huber, Schleswig-Holstein’s Prime Minister Daniel Günther and State Secretary Susanne Henckel in Fehmarn. A total of 88 kilometres of new railways are being built on the German side between Puttgarden (on Fehmarn) and Lübeck.

Deutsche Bahn is initially starting with the double-track expansion and electrification of the 11.4-kilometre-long route between Puttgarden and the Fehmarnsund Bridge – the first of a total of ten construction phases. From 2026, construction will begin in parallel on all sections between Fehmarn and Lübeck. Of the 88 kilometres of the total route, 55 kilometres are planned as new construction. On the island of Fehmarn, construction preparations such as clearing vegetation and trees have been underway since October.

The German rail connection to the Fehmarnbelt tunnel (image: DB, added translations)
The German rail connection to the Fehmarnbelt tunnel (image: DB, added translations)

It is a big upgrade to the so-called ‘Vogelfluglinie’ or ‘bird flight line’, the current road and single-track rail connection to the island of Fehmarn via the Fehmarnsund Bridge, opened in 1963, and continuing by ferry to Denmark. As of December 2019, the rail ferry connection on the Vogelfluglinie was discontinued due to track work on the Danish side as part of the construction of the Fehmarnbelt tunnel. Instead, all long-distance trains between Hamburg and Copenhagen now run via the Jutland line, via the Flensburg–Kolding–Odense route and the Great Belt Bridge in Denmark.

The current tracks on the German island of Fehmarn
The current tracks on the German island of Fehmarn

Majorly cutting travel times

Next to cutting transport times between Germany and Copenhagen, the railway link also benefits commuters in the Ostholstein region in Germany. The completion of the new route will reduce the travel time from Fehmarn to Lübeck from just under an hour and a half to just 49 minutes. The trains will then only travel for 23 minutes between Lensahn and Lübeck instead of the previous 53 minutes.

DB is also building six new, modern and barrier-free train stations, including between Großenbrode and Heiligenhafen and in Ratekau, which is good news, especially for tourism in the region, but also for commuters towards Hamburg and Denmark.

‘European milestone’

Next to majorly cutting train times for passengers between Germany, Denmark and the Nordics in general, the new route is also fundamental for freight traffic on the Scandinavian-Mediterranean Corridor between Northern Europe and Italy. In the future, 68 freight trains will run via the Fehmarn Belt Fixed Link every day, with an additional 30 freight trains from the port of Travemünde towards Italy.

“After years of planning, today we can celebrate the start of construction of the rail connection here on Fehmarn”, said DB board member for infrastructure Berthold Huber. “Together with our Danish partners, we are creating a new European rail connection here in the middle of the Baltic Sea from Denmark via Germany to Italy by 2029. This corridor is just as important for local and long-distance transport here in Schleswig-Holstein as it is for European freight transport.”

Susanne Henckel, State Secretary in the German Federal Ministry for Digital Affairs and Transport calls it “a real European milestone”. “The connection to the Fehmarnbelt crossing not only brings Germany and Denmark closer together but also the whole of Europe.”

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Author: Esther Geerts

Former Editor RailTech.com

3 comments op “Shortcut to Denmark: DB starts rail construction to Fehmarnbelt tunnel”

Joachim Falkenhagen|09.12.23|00:34

It is certainly a pity that trains will not use the Fehmarnbelt bridge any more, an thus miss any view of the sea. The change from two lanes for cars to six lanes (4 in the tunnel and 2 on the bridge) also seems outlandish. The existing bridge could have taken two rail tracks plus low speed traffic (e.g.bike+pedestrians). Alternatively, one direction of train travel could have remained on the bridge with only the opposite direction in the tunnel, which would also increace redunancy somewhat.

Joachim Falkenhagen|09.12.23|00:37

Timmendorfer Strand will lose its rail connection for a realignment of the track to the west, and now starts to regret the decision and the loss in tourists and replacement of some rail visitors by visiters that bring a car and need parking and street space.
Some years ago, they still had opposed an extension of the existing rail track at its original route for NIMBY reasons.

stefan vis|10.12.23|07:56

Hopefully there will be enough bike spaces as crossing the Storebelt with a bike or as a pedestrian is pretty damn expensive and the trains are not very bike (especially ont cargobike) or wheelchair friendly and this always seems to be a problem going to or coming from Copenhagen in any direction. Please make taking bikes free across the waters.

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