German minister shoots down Fehmarn CEO's time frame

The German minister responsible for the Fehmarn fixed link project, Bernd Buchholz (FDP), says that the tunnel between Denmark and Germany will not be ready before 2030. The Danish Fehmarn company still guides with an expected launch in 2028.

Photo: Femern A/S

Even though the Fehmarn company shortly before the turn of the year received the long-awaited approval from German authorities, the massive infrastructure project's time schedule is hanging by a thread.

This is evident from an interview with the responsible German transport minister in Schleswig-Holstein, Bernd Buchholz (FDP) by German media Welt.

Buchholz' statements come shortly after the much-delayed approval from German authorities falling into place. The Danish infrastructure company Femern A/S has already secured approval of the tunnel construction, and the accompanying approval of the German onshore facilities is underway.

"After this there will be a consultation period in which stakeholders can submit complaints, which means that the construction can begin in 2022 at the earliest. So it will be 2030 before the tunnel is completed," Buchholz tells Welt.

The complaints will be submitted by displeased German environmental organizations, which claim that the tunnel harms the environment and is unnecessary. These cases will be decided by a court in Leipzig, and there are numerous examples of these kinds of cases delaying German infrastructure projects for years.

Buchholz has previously warned that the complaint cases could drag on, but this is the first time he lists a year for when he deems it realistic that the tunnel can open.

The CEO of the Danish company in the project, Femern A/S, Claus Baunkjær, has for months declined to be interviewed by Finans and Jyllands-Posten, but head of communications Tine Lund-Bretlau says that the company still projects to open the tunnel in 2028.

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The approval Femern A/S received just before New years is a legal document of more than 1,000 pages which lists which requirements and conditions must be met in order to build the tunnel on the German side. The German requirements are expected to be costly, but the Femern company says it will not have an overview of how much the German requirements will delay the project or make it more expensive.

Additionally, the company has said that it does not plan to sit by idle while the court in Leipzig processes the complaits. Femern A/S will thus explore the possibilities of starting work on, for instance, the tunnel element factory and work port on the Danish side before the German complaints are processed and completed.

"Now we'll first do a thorough analysis of the German approval. And then, this spring, we'll go to our board of directors and owners with some well-analyzed scenarios for how to push the project forward," Lund-Bretlau told Finans shortly before Christmas.

In Denmark, Parliament authorized the construction in 2015, and the year after, conditional contracts worth DKK 30 billion (USD 4.6 billion) with contractor consortia that will handle the construction of the tunnel. With a combined budget of DKK 52.6 billion, the Fehmarn Belt fixed link project is the biggest infrastructure project ever in Denmark.

English Edit: Daniel Logan Berg-Munch

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