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Denmark approves plan for underwater tunnel to Germany

Danish plans to build another direct link to Germany moved forward with the approval by parliament of an underwater tunnel. The completed project hopes to connect Hamburg with Copenhagen in just three hours.

Fehmarn strait between Germany and Denmark

The tunnel would stretch 18 kilometers underwater

Lawmakers in Denmark approved amended plans for another road-and-rail link to Germany on Tuesday, opting for an underwater tunnel that they say would be safer and more environmentally friendly than the bridge they had planned originally.

Both countries agreed in 2008 to connect the northern German island of Fehmarn with the Danish island of Lolland by building a road-and-rail bridge across the strait.

But the state-owned Danish firm Femern A/S presented lawmakers with modified plans for an 18-kilometer (11.6 mile) underwater tunnel. Seven out of eight parliamentary factions voted for the proposal, which kept the budget at around 5.1 billion euros ($7 billion).

"We will now be pressing ahead with the tunnel project at turbo-speed," said Danish Transport Minister Hans Christian Schmidt.

Denmark and Germany must both compile environmental impact reports and submit them to their respective authorities. Environmental campaigners in Germany have condemned the project as it endangers the habitats of animals like whales and seals.

Construction is scheduled to begin in 2014 and is to be completed in 2020.

Computer illustration of bridge

Danish officials said the bridge would not be as safe or environmentally friendly

Shortened journey

Denmark agreed to finance the project's construction alone because of the "clearly greater Danish interest" in building the connection. It hopes to win subsidies from the European Union and to recoup costs through toll fares in about 30 years.

German costs would be limited to connecting the tunnel with German infrastructure, estimated at between 800 million and 1.7 billion euros.

Fehmarn is already connected to the German mainland by bridge, and Lolland already connects to the Danish island of Zealand, where Copenhagen lies on the east coast.

Direct train or auto transit from Germany to Copenhagen is already possible through another route, but the proposed tunnel would dramatically shorten the journey. Authorities estimate that Hamburg and Copenhagen could be connected in three hours.

The Oresund Bridge connects Copenhagen to the Swedish coast, meaning the completed tunnel would also shorten the journey from Germany to Sweden.

Author: Andrew Bowen (AP, AFP, dpa)
Editor: Nicole Goebel

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