Objections filed as Fehmarn prepares for construction 13 Jun 2019

Patrick Reynolds for TunnelTalk

Formal legal objections have been lodged in Germany against the 17.6km long Fehmarn road and rail sea link across the Femern Belt between Denmark and Germany, as momentum builds towards start of some of the main construction works in Denmark. Seven complaints against the planned world-beating immersed tube tunnel were made during an official four-week period that ended in early May.

Femern Belt waterway between Denmark and Germany
Femern Belt waterway between Denmark and Germany

The legal complaints, to be heard by the Federal Administrative Court of Germany, the Bundesverwaltungsgericht, in Leipzig, were filed by:

  • three ferry companies – Scandlines, NordoLink and Stena Line
  • two environmental non-governmental organisations of Germany – Naturschutzbund Deutschland (NABU) and Bund fur Unwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland (BUND);
  • two municipalities; and
  • a local landowner

The formal complaints have been anticipated for some time by the project developer, Femern A/S. They follow the Environmental Approval for the project by the German State of Schleswig-Holstein in February this year. The State is now the defendant against the legal objections and objectors have until early July to submit more details to support their cases. Femern A/S anticipates that legal challenges might take up to two years to resolve.

Construction to start at Rødbyhavn casting factory
Construction to start at Rødbyhavn casting factory

When the possibility of formal legal objections to the environmental approval in Germany became apparent, Femern A/S reviewed its requirements for potential impacts on time and cost and concluded the project timeline should not be impacted and any extra costs would be covered within the existing construction budget, TunnelTalk was told by Jens Villemoes, media spokesman for Femern A/S.

Last year, when faced with the potential legal opposition risking more delays to the project, Femern A/S developed contingency plans that included the possibility that full construction might not get to start until late 2020. With Denmark leading on the mega project, a further part of the contingency planning saw Femern A/S, earlier this year, seek and win permission from the Danish Government to start some of the main construction works in Denmark in 2019.

Special immersed tube tunnel element
Special immersed tube tunnel element
Contract packages of Fehmarn fixed link
Contract packages of Fehmarn fixed link

“We expect work on the drydock harbour at Rødbyhavn harbour to begin this Autumn,” said Villemoes, confirming the earlier announced schedule. The works are expected to take two years to complete. Early main works in Denmark will also include construction of the element precasting factory and necessary near-shore dredging and reclamation.

When the move was announced in late March, TunnelTalk was told by Villemoes that the early main works will be carved out of the main construction contracts and advanced by the contractors of large construction contracts awarded conditionally to:

  • a Vinci-led consortia to undertake the tunnel, portal and ramps and
  • a Boskalis-led group to perform the dredging and reclamation works.

The cost of the early works is already covered in the construction budget, said Villemoes. The value of the works were not disclosed. Talks with the contractors are still ongoing, he said, though preparatory works at the Danish construction site are continuing as planned.

The overall cost of the Fehmarn toll-link project is budgeted at DKr 52.6 billion, about US$8 billion, in 2015 prices, of which DKr 7.3 billion is reserves. The Danish Government has provided state guarantees on the loans.

Inspection of seabed near future Rødbyhavn construction site
Inspection of seabed near future Rødbyhavn construction site

The early works will trigger the release of a significant portion of approved EU project funding, said Villemoes. The funding is applicable for up to 40% of railway only related costs that account for about one-third of the overall road-rail project. About 20% of the cost of the early construction works are eligible to draw funds from the EU subsidy.

Femern A/S CEO Claus F Baunkjær
Femern A/S CEO Claus F Baunkjær

“Now we embark on a new chapter of the Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link project,” Femern A/S CEO, Claus F Baunkjær, told TunnelTalk. “The implementation of a number of major construction activities will make best use of the time and ensure progress in the project. This is a very important step.”

The tunnel element factory is being constructed in stages with the first production lines expected to be operational about Autumn 2021. Casting is expected to begin in early 2022. Once fully operational, the factory is to have capability of casting a tunnel element every two weeks. A total of 89 elements are to be cast – 79 standard and 10 special elements which are shorter and deeper to include a basement level for technical equipment.

Follow-on main construction activities would include all offshore dredging, all concrete casting, the float-out and placement of the elements, and all construction work at the portal ramps near Puttgarden in German. Exactly when the follow-on main works get going will depend on the status of the German court case against the Environmental Approval, explained Villemoes.

Plan of Rødbyhavn and showing tunnel portal location
Plan of Rødbyhavn and showing tunnel portal location

Villemoes also explained that an expedited permit was sought recently, as an Immediate Enforcement approval, to allow some preparatory works to start at Puttgarden in Germany to progress while the court case proceeds, and at the beginning of May it was granted.

Briefing TunnelTalk, Villemoes said: “Complaints about construction projects are normal in Germany, and were expected. We are well prepared for a coming court case and do not expect to adjust our time plan.”

The targeted opening year for the sea link across the Femern Belt remains 2028.


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