Fehmarnbelt tunnel set to benefit regional cooperation

Reflections from the Fehmarnbelt Days: Transnational cooperation is likely to benefit significantly from the construction of the world’s longest car and train tunnel.

The Fehrmanbelt Days conference was held in Malmö 28–29 May, focusing on the Fehmarbelt tunnel between Denmark and Germany and what it will imply for European connectivity and mobility. We joined the event to learn and discuss the opportunities this bring for the North Sea Region.

The Interreg programmes Interreg Öresund-Kattegat-Skagerrak, South Baltic Sea and North Sea Region shared a common exhibition area.

The Fehrman Strait ( Fehmarnbelt in German) is located between the German island Fehmarn and the Danish island Lolland. Linking the town Rødby with German Puttgarden, it will be the world’s  longest combined railway and motorway tunnel of a staggering 18 km, and is set to bring the  travel time from Malmö to Hamburg down to 3 hours.

Tip of Lolland protruding into the Fehmarn Strait. The distance between the Danish island of Lolland and the German island of Fehmarn is approximately 20 km.

The tunnel is expected to be in place by 2028. It will directly affect parts of Germany, Denmark and Sweden with a combined citizenship of 8,9 million people.

This is bound to reinforce the transnational cooperation between the three countries, e.g. the trade links between Copenhagen and Hamburg are already strong and will be further bolstered by enhanced transport options.

At the Fehrmanbelt Days, the transport ministers present agreed that Europe needs more cooperation. Pat Cox, coordinator for the Scandinavian-Mediterranean Corridor, highlighted the importance of the Fehmarnbelt link, stating that it will not only be a means of transport – it will transform our society.

The North Sea Region is a key gateway for the majority of EU international trade passing through the North Sea Region. Hence, transport decisions in the North Sea Region can influence modal choices across much of the continent.

The Economist recently highlighted the combined impact of the projected Fehmarnbelt link and Brenner Base Tunnel on the overall cohesion of Europe:  Together with the existing Malmö-Copenhagen bridge, realising these projects will bring Northern and Southern Europe together, forming a new North-South transport line dubbed the ‘Malmö-Palermo Express’.

Incentives for regional cooperation

The tunnel connection is one of the largest infrastructure efforts in the European Union and is set to create incentives for further cooperation in the  North Sea Region, including important knowledge and growth fields such as life science, food, IT, logistics, wind energy, green technology and tourism. Other affected regions, such as the Baltic Sea Region, are likely to experience the same benefits.

The mayor of Helsingborg Peter Danielsson outlined the future process for a permanent link between Helsingborg and Elsinore.

The Fehrmanbelt tunnel will not only bring added value to northern Germany and southern Demark. It also brings important incentives for other parts of the region to further connect: A subway between Malmö and Copenhagen is on the agenda, with an estimated travel time of 23 minutes.  And a new  Interreg Kattegat-Öresund-Skagerrak project will  identify the strengths of a permanent link between Elsinore and Helsingborg, including aspects such as increased mobility and   shorter commutes. The results will be presented towards the end of 2020.

Kathrin Rath, Hamburg University of Applied Sciences, also acknowledges these major incentives and especially the signed letter of intent between Hamburg Metropolitan Region and Greater Copenhagen . In her role as coordinator for international research, she sees this as a declaration of an even closer cooperation between two leading metropoles.

‘A closer connection between Hamburg Metropolitan Region and Greater Copenhagen offers a lot of opportunities for applied research with higher education and research institutes in fields such as renewable energy, green mobility or digitalisation which are relevant for the future development of both regions,’ she says.

‘Solutions developed in research collaboration in this area will contribute to meeting challenges which are being perceived worldwide. Close cooperation with the business sector should complement the field of action as SMEs and industries are important partners to enhance applied research.’

The role of transnational cooperation

As several stakeholders pointed out, there is much to do to enhance transport options in the North Sea Regionand and new initiatives can build on the opportunities provided by the Fehmarnbelt link.  For example, transnational cooperation is needed to:

  • Identify viable multimodal routes and goods flows, and the barriers to wider use of these routes.
  • Pilot solutions to remove these barriers.
  • Ensure that North Sea Region services and routes link up to the major corridors being promoted by the European Union (TEN-T).
  • Develop improved logistics solutions to facilitate these developments.
  • Demonstrate the potential of  existing solutions such as car-sharing, multi-use vehicles, and non-conventional fuels for urban public transport and freight distribution systems.
  • Continue to promote and prepare for the wider roll-out of alternative fuels for privately owned vehicles.
  • Support other long-term solutions like changes to planning rules and practices to reduce travel need and promote healthier forms of mobility.

Do you have a green mobility idea?

Apply with us! Our next call for expression of interest starts 29 June. Please note that due to our two-step application process,  you can only submit a final application in January next year based on an approved expression of interest (or a full application that was previously submitted and rejected ). Learn more about upcoming calls here.

About the author

Jesper Jönsson is a seasoned Interreg North Sea Region Programme Project Advisor and takes a keen interest in the future of our region.

Here he is looking into tomorrow’s connections at the Fehmarn Belt Days!

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