General presentation of the strait
Fehmarn Belt is a strait connecting the Bay of Kiel and the Bay of Mecklenburg in the western part of the Baltic Sea between the German island of Fehmarn and the Danish island of Lolland. Ferries transport connects the harbours Puttgarden and Rødby on the two islands.
The strait features a 18-kilometre (10 nautical miles) wide area with depths of 20–30 metres. Currents in the strait are weak and mostly dependent on wind.
Description of the strait
The Fehmarn belt strait is a vital access point for transport of passengers and goods between Scandinavia and Northern Europe. It is also one of the most important shipping routes between the Baltic Sea through the Great Belt and into the Atlantic, where large container carriers and oil tankers with considerable depths need to pass.
The Danish and German governments agreed on 29 June 2007 to build a fixed link to replace the ferry route. It is to save 1 hour on crossing the strait, and provide more crossing capacity. The costs for the tunnel will amount to aprox. €5.1 billion and is intended to open in 2020. The project is supported financially by the EU. The tunnel is to have three separate drives, two containing two motorway lanes each, and one with a double-track railway line.
Traffic across the strait is very heavy. The yearly statistic counts 2 mill cars and 0,5 mill train passengers. The traffic is expected to triple when the tunnel opens in 2020 with a daily average of approx. 6.000 cars and 3.600 train passengers.
Studies carried out by Germany's Federal Agency for Nature Conservation demonstrated that about 70 percent of the water exchange between the North Sea and the Baltic Sea takes place through the Fehmarn strait. It is also the most important bird migration hotspot. There are many protected areas on land and on sea.
Cross-boundary cooperation in the strait
Denmark and Germany have a long tradition for cooperation in the cross border areas both on local and national levels. In the Fehmarn Belt area Region Zealand and the County of East Holstein have established a Fehmarn Belt committee together with the local municipalities. The Committee plays an important role in the integration process across the strait. The political cooperation has a clear ambition in promoting a sustainable regional development with a green profile – thus creating jobs, economic growth and good living conditions for the population on both sides.
Region Zealand and East Holstein are also part of the STRING-corridor from Hamburg to the Oresound area. STRING is a political cooperation on regional level aimed at creating a dynamic development and becoming a green model corridor and a growth motor for northern Europe.
Main environmental challenges of the strait
The Fehmarn Belt will be subject to considerable change in the coming years with a planned tunnel through the Belt (appr. 20 km) and Hinterland- rail- connections (80 km in county of East Holstein and much more in Zealand) and a motorway upgrade. These and other planning will have many effects on the protected areas and natural heritage. Especially the building of a fixed link in the next 8 years can be a considerable threat to preserving the nature and wildlife on both sides of the strait. When the link opens in 2020 traffic is suspected to rise considerably - especially in form of heavy goods lorry traffic and an increasing number of train passages. This constitutes a permanent thread for impact on nature and wildlife in the belt area.
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