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When Fehmarn Strait is inspired by Dover Strait and the Channel Tunnel Lolland Municipality visits Pas-de-Calais, 28-30 April 2013

Published the 10 July 2013

A delegation from the municipality of Lolland, lead by the Mayor, Mr Stig Vestergaard, visited Pas-de-Calais from 28 to 30 April 2013 in order to draw lessons from the Channel Tunnel, which was built between France and the United Kingdom in the Dover Strait and inaugurated in 1994. This is one of the missions of the European Straits Initiative: to favour the exchange of experiences in these special territories, which are both marine and terrestrial.

Lolland, a Danish town in the strait of Fehmarn belt, will be the point of departure of a future technical achievement: from 2015 to 2012, a 19-km tunnel will be built, linking Denmark to Germany. It will not be excavated, but rather placed on the bottom of the strait of Fehmarn, at a depth of forty metres. Being built for rail and road traffic, the tunnel will link the two countries in ten minutes instead of a one-hour sea crossing, as is the current case. The construction will cost forty billion Danish crowns, i.e. more than five billion euros.

In order to benefit from the experience of the Channel Tunnel in the Dover Strait, a political delegation from Lolland Municipality, lead by the Mayor, Mr Stig Vestergaard, visited Pas-de-Calais from 28 to 30 April 2013. The delegation arrived in Calais with various questions in mind: What was the role of the local authorities at the time of construction of the tunnel, and in particular the local elected officials? In which way did they prepare themselves? Which were the items on the agenda? And more precisely, how far did the region benefit from the construction of the tunnel and what were the consequences for the economy and the environment of the region? Moreover, answers to questions concerning land use planning, and urban and industrial development before and after the construction of the tunnel enriched the discussions.

During the three days, the delegation visited the area of the Eurotunnel, the Port of Calais, the site of the 2 capes, CROSS (Centre régional opérationnel de surveillance et de sauvetage or Regional operational surveillance and rescue centre) and the Pas-de-Calais County Council (at the Maison du Département du Développement local of the Calaisis). Moreover, the delegation listened to testimony from members of the Tunnel Builders’ Association with great interest. The Danes also expressed their appreciation to Mr Dominique Dupilet, President of the Pas-de-Calais County Council, also known as the “channel MP”, for his expertise and advice, in planning and land use issues in particular. They also acknowledged the role of the European Straits Initiative, which he had launched in 2010 and which contributed greatly to facilitating the organisation of the visit, since the strait of Fehmarn and Dover strait are both members of the ESI network.

"The Europe of Straits aspired to by the Pas-de-Calais and Kent Counties is not just a nice idea. Recognised by the European Union, it can provide concrete answers to all concerns, and in particular, the exchange of experiences associated with large projects" noted Mr Dominique Dupilet, President of the Pas-de-Calais County Council.

 

Three aspects were identified by the Danish delegation as the main lessons drawn from this visit: employment, tourism and business development.

As regards employment, the Pas-de-Calais County Council insisted on the role played by local officials in convincing entrepreneurs to use local manpower on the one hand, and to help local enterprises in entering into contracts with the company to which the construction of the tunnel was assigned: TML (Transmanche Link, a Franco-British consortium) in the case of the Channel Tunnel, on the other hand. The community of Lolland and the region of Zealand expressed a strong desire; the employment of local manpower, on a priority basis, for the construction of the Fehmarn Strait tunnel.

Tourism and business development. One of the lessons learnt from the Pas-de-Calais visit by the Lolland Municipality delegation was the importance of local factors. In fact, long term local development prospects, at urban, social and economic level, depend greatly on local reflection and decisions as regards land use planning in the tunnel’s surrounding area. In this sense, since the beginning of 2008, Lolland has adopted a very active approach in anticipation of the construction of the tunnel, by integrating the tunnel in its local development plan. In addition, the visit revealed that more indirect factors can also have important effects on local development. The construction of a new motorway has stimulated the development of tourism in the strait (customers arrive from Belgium or Paris). A similar development is possible in the Fehmarn Belt region, due to the improvement of road infrastructure between Hamburg and Copenhagen.

The main lesson learnt from the informative visit, which was very well organised by the Pas-de-Calais County Council, is that a proactive approach to regional development is required from local authorities in order to grasp the opportunities created by the construction of the tunnel.

See the video of the visit:

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