Great Belt Fixed Link

The Great Belt Bridge
(The East Bridge)

The East Bridge as seen from the Sjælland side.
Coordinates 55°20′31″N 11°02′10″E / 55.34194°N 11.03611°E / 55.34194; 11.03611
Carries Motor vehicles
Crosses Great Belt
Official name Østbroen
Maintained by A/S Storebælt
Design Suspension bridge
Material Concrete and steel
Total length 6,790 metres (22,277 ft)
Width 31 metres (102 ft)
Height 254 metres (833 ft)
Longest span 1,624 metres (5,328 ft)
Piers in water 19
Clearance below 65 metres (213 ft)
Designer COWI & Ramboll
Construction end 1998
Opened 14 June 1998
Toll 240.00 DKK ($36.40) per car.[1]

The Great Belt Fixed Link (Danish: Storebæltsforbindelsen) runs between the Danish islands of Zealand and Funen. It consists of five structures: a road suspension bridge and a railway tunnel between Zealand and the small island Sprogø located in the middle of the Great Belt, and a box girder bridge for both road and rail traffic between Sprogø and Funen. The "Great Belt Bridge" (Danish: Storebæltsbroen) commonly refers to the suspension bridge, although it may also be used to mean the box-girder bridge or the link in its entirety. The suspension bridge, officially known as the East Bridge, has the world's third longest main span (1.6 km), and the longest outside of Asia. It was designed by the Danish engineering firms COWI and Ramboll. The link replaced the ferry service that had been the primary means of crossing the Great Belt. After more than five decades of speculation and debate, the decision to construct the link was made in 1986;[2] the original intent was to complete the railway link three years before opening the road connection, but the link opened to rail traffic in 1997 and road traffic in 1998. At an estimated cost of DKK 21.4 billion (1988 prices),[3] the link is the largest construction project in Danish history.[4]

Operation and maintenance are performed by A/S Storebælt under Sund & Bælt. Construction and maintenance are financed by tolls on vehicles and trains.

The link has reduced travel times significantly; previously taking about an hour by ferry, the Great Belt can now be crossed in about ten minutes. The construction of the link and the Øresund Bridge have together enabled driving from mainland Europe to Sweden and the rest of Scandinavia through Denmark. Cyclists are not permitted to use the bridge, but cycles may be transported by train or bus.


The Great Belt ferries entered service between the coastal towns of Korsør and Nyborg in 1883, connecting the railway lines on either side of the Belt. In 1957, road traffic was moved to the Halsskov–Knudshoved route, about 1.5 kilometres to the north and close to the fixed link.

Construction drafts for a fixed link were presented as early as the 1850s, with several suggestions appearing in the following decades. The Danish State Railways, responsible for the ferry service, presented plans for a bridge in 1934. The concepts of bridges over Øresund (152m DKK) and Storebælt (257m DKK) were calculated around 1936.[5] In 1948, the Ministry for Public Works (now the Ministry of Transport) established a commission to investigate the implications of a fixed link.[6]

The first law concerning a fixed link was enacted in 1973,[7] but the project was put on hold in 1978 as the Venstre (Liberal) party demanded postponing public spending. Political agreement to restart work was reached in 1986, with a construction law (Danish: anlægslov) being passed in 1987.[8]

The design was carried out by the engineering firms COWI and Ramboll together with Dissing+Weitling architecture practice.

Construction of the link commenced in 1988. In 1991, Finland sued Denmark at the International Court of Justice, on the grounds that Finnish-built mobile offshore drilling units would be unable to pass beneath the bridge. The two countries negotiated a financial compensation of 90 million Danish kroner, and Finland withdrew the lawsuit.[9]

The link is estimated to have created a value of 379 billion DKK after 50 years of use.[10]


The West Bridge

The West bridge (foreground) seen from Nyborg at Funen.
Coordinates 55°18′42″N 10°54′23″E / 55.31167°N 10.90639°E / 55.31167; 10.90639
Carries Motor vehicles, trains
Crosses Great Belt
Official name Vestbroen
Maintained by A/S Storebælt
Design Box girder bridge
Total length 6,611 metres (21,690 ft)
Width 25 metres (82 ft)
Longest span 110 metres (361 ft)
Piers in water 62
Clearance below 18 metres (59 ft)
Opened 1 June 1997 (rail traffic)
14 June 1998 (road traffic)
The East Tunnel
Official name Østtunnelen
Location Great Belt
Coordinates 55°21′15″N 11°01′59″E / 55.35417°N 11.03306°E / 55.35417; 11.03306
Status Active
Start Halsskov
End Sprogø
Opened 1 June 1997
Traffic Trains
Character Mainline railway
Length 8,024 metres (4.986 mi)
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)
Electrified 25 kV AC 50 Hz
Highest elevation −15.1 metres (−50 ft)[11]
Lowest elevation −75 metres (−246 ft)[3][11]
Grade 16 ‰ (max)[11]

The construction of the fixed link became the biggest building project in the history of Denmark. In order to connect Halsskov on Zealand with Knudshoved on Funen, 18 kilometres to its west, a two-track railway and a four-lane motorway had to be built, via the small island of Sprogø in the middle of the Great Belt. The project comprised three different tasks: the East Bridge for road transport, the East Tunnel for rail transport and the West Bridge for road and rail transport combined. The construction work was carried out by Sundlink Contractors, a consortium of Skanska, Hochtief, Højgaard & Schultz (which built the West Bridge) and Monberg & Thorsen (which built the eight-kilometre section under the Great Belt).[12] The work of lifting and placing the elements was carried out by Ballast Nedam using a floating crane.[13]

The East Bridge

Built between 1991 and 1998 at a cost of US$950 million,[14] the East Bridge (Østbroen) is a suspension bridge between Halsskov and Sprogø. It is 6,790 metres (22,277 ft) long with a free span of 1,624 metres (5,328 ft),[3] making it the world's third-longest suspension bridge span, surpassed only by the Akashi Kaikyō Bridge and Xihoumen Bridge. The Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge was opened two months earlier. The East Bridge had been planned to be completed in time to be the longest bridge, but it was delayed. The vertical clearance for ships is 65 metres (213 ft), meaning the world's largest cruise ship, an Oasis-class cruise ship, just fits under with its smokestack folded.[15]

Panoramic picture of the East Bridge

At 254 metres (833 ft) above sea level, the two pylons of the East Bridge are the highest points on self-supporting structures in Denmark. Some radio masts, such as Tommerup transmitter, are taller.

To keep the main cables tensioned, an anchorage structure on each side of the span is placed below the road deck. After 15 years, the cables have no rust. They were scheduled for a 15million DKK paint job, but due to corroding cables on other bridges, the decision was made to instead install a 70million DKK sealed de-humidifying system in the cables.[16][17][18] Nineteen concrete pillars (12 on the Zealand side, seven by Sprogø), 193 metres (633 ft) apart, carry the road deck outside the span.

The West Bridge

The West Bridge (Vestbroen) is a box girder bridge[19] between Sprogø and Knudshoved. It is 6,611 metres (21,690 ft) long, and has a vertical clearance for ships of 18 metres (59 ft).[3] It is actually two separate, adjacent bridges: the northern one carries rail traffic and the southern one road traffic. The pillars of the two bridges rest on common foundations below sea level.[20] The West Bridge was built between 1988 and 1994; its road/rail deck comprises 63 sections, supported by 62 pillars.

The East Tunnel

The twin bored tunnel tubes of the East Tunnel (Østtunnelen) are each 8,024 m (5 miles) long.[3] There are 31 connecting tunnels between the two main tunnels, at 250 metres (820 ft) intervals. The equipment that is necessary for train operation in the tunnels is installed in the connecting tunnels, which also serve as emergency escape routes.

There were delays and cost overruns in the tunnel construction. The plan was to open it in 1993, giving the trains a head start of three years over road traffic, but train traffic started in 1997 and road traffic in 1998. During construction the sea bed gave way and one of the tunnels was flooded. The water continued to rise and reached the end at Sprogø, where it continued into the (still dry) other tunnel. The water damaged two of the four tunnel boring machines, but no workers were injured. Only by placing a clay blanket on the sea bed was it possible to dry out the tunnels. The two damaged machines were repaired and the majority of the tunnelling was undertaken from the Sprogø side. The machines on the Zealand side tunnelled through difficult ground and made little progress. A major fire on one of the Zealand machines in June 1994 stopped these drives and the tunnels were completed by the two Sprogø machines.

A total of 320 compressed air workers were involved in 9018 pressure exposures in the four tunnel-boring machines.[21] The project had a decompression sickness incidence of 0.14% with two workers having long-term residual symptoms.[21]

Traffic implications

Prior to the opening of the link, an average of 8,000 cars used the ferries across the Great Belt every day. This increased 127 percent the first year of opening[22] due to the so-called traffic leap; new traffic generated by the improved ease, facility and lower price of crossing the Great Belt. In 2008, an average of 30,200 cars used the link each day.[23] The increase in traffic is partly caused by the general growth of traffic, partly diversion of traffic volume from other ferry services and air services.

The fixed link has produced considerable time savings between eastern and western Denmark. Previously, it took approximately 90 minutes on average to cross the Great Belt in a car with transfer by ferry, including the waiting time at the ports. It took considerably longer during peak periods, such as at weekends and holidays. With the opening of the link, the journey is now between ten and 15 minutes.

Great Belt Bridge
Site of Great Belt Bridge in Denmark

By train the time savings are significant as well. The journey has been reduced by 60 minutes, and there are many more seats available because more carriages may be added to a train as the train does not have to fit onto a ferry. The seating capacity offered by DSB across the Great Belt on an ordinary Wednesday has risen from 11,060 seats to 37,490 seats. On Fridays the seating capacity exceeds 40,000 seats.

On the following stretches the shortest travel times are as follows: CopenhagenOdense 1 hour 15 minutes, CopenhagenAarhus 2 hours 30 minutes, CopenhagenAalborg 3 hours 55 minutes and CopenhagenEsbjerg 2 hours 35 minutes.

Flights between Copenhagen and Odense, and between Copenhagen and Esbjerg have ceased, and the train now has the largest market share between Copenhagen and Aarhus.

Together with the Øresund Bridge, the link provides a direct fixed connection between western Continental Europe and northern Scandinavia, eventually connecting all parts of the European Union except Ireland, Malta and Cyprus and outlying islands. Most people from Zealand still prefer taking the ferry between Puttgarden and Rødby, as it is a much shorter distance and provides a needed break for those travelling a long distance.

For freight trains, the fixed links are a large improvement between Sweden and Germany, and between Sweden and the UK. The Sweden-to-Germany ferry system is still used to some extent owing to limited rail capacity, with heavy passenger traffic over the bridges and some single track stretches in southern Denmark and northern Germany.

The Great Belt was used by now defunct night passenger trains between Copenhagen and Germany, which were too long to fit on the ferries. Day trains on the Copenhagen-Hamburg route use the Fehmarn Belt ferries, with short diesel trains.

In 2020 the Fehmarn Belt Fixed Link is expected to be complete with much of this international traffic being shifted from the Great Belt Fixed Link. This more direct route will reduce the rail journey from Hamburg to Copenhagen from 4¾ to 3½ hours.

Toll charge

The Toll area at night. Each booth can be used for electronic toll collection (green booths), credit card (blue booths) or manual payment (yellow booths), depending on the load on each payment method.

In 2014 the vehicle tolls were as follows:[24]

Vehicle One trip One day return Daily commuting
Standard car 235 DKK (€33) Vary Paid via Electronic device, BroBizz, 5% discount for private use
Motorcycle 125 DKK (€18) (N/A) Solo motorcycles only. Trailer combinations charged at 220 DKK
Motorhome, 610 m 360 DKK (€50) (N/A)
Tourist bus 1020 m 1120 DKK (€156) (N/A)
Comparing with trains, shortest possible crossing of the Belt (Nyborg - Korsør):[25]

Environmental effects

The East Bridge as seen from above.

Environmental considerations have been an integral part of the project, and have been of decisive significance for the choice of alignment and determination of the design. Environmental considerations were the reason why Great Belt A/S established an environmental monitoring programme in 1988, and initiated co-operation with authorities and external consultants on the definition of environmental concerns during the construction work and the professional requirements to the monitoring programme. This co-operation issued in a report published at the beginning of 1997 on the state of the environment in the Great Belt. The conclusion of the report was that the marine environment was at least as good as before construction work began.

As concerns the water flows, the link must comply with the so-called zero-solution. This has been achieved by deepening parts of the Great Belt, so that the water flow cross section has been increased. This excavation compensates for the blocking effect caused by the bridge pylons and approach ramps. The conclusion of the report is that water flows are now almost at the level they were before the bridge was built.

The fixed link has generated increased road traffic volume, which has meant increased air pollution. However, there has been significant savings in the energy consumption by switching from ferries to the fixed link. Train and car ferries consume much energy for propulsion, high-speed ferries consume large amounts of energy at high speeds, and air transport is highly energy consuming. Domestic air travel over the Great Belt was greatly reduced after the opening of the bridge, with the former air travellers now using trains and private cars.

The larger energy consumption by ferries as opposed to via the fixed link is most clearly seen when comparing short driving distances from areas immediately east or west of the link. For more extended driving distances the difference in energy consumption is smaller, but any transport within Denmark across the link shows very clear energy savings.

During 2009, seven large wind turbines, likely Vestas 3MWs totalling 21MW capacity, were erected in the sea north of Sprogø to contribute to the electrical demand of the Great Belt Link. Their hub heights are about the same level as the road deck of the suspension bridge. Part of the project was to showcase sea wind at the December 2009 Copenhagen climate meeting.[26]


During construction 479 work-related accidents were reported, of which 53 resulted in serious injuries or death.[27] At least seven workers died as a result of work-related accidents.[28]

The West Bridge has been struck by sea traffic twice. While the link was still under construction on 14 September 1993, the ferry M/F Romsø drifted off course in bad weather and hit the West Bridge. At 19:17 on 3 March 2005, the 3,500-ton freighter MV Karen Danielsen crashed into the West Bridge 800 metres from Funen. All traffic across the bridge was halted, effectively cutting Denmark in two. The bridge was re-opened shortly after midnight, after the freighter was pulled free and inspectors had found no structural damage to the bridge.[29]

The East Bridge has so far been in the clear, although on 16 May 2001, the bridge was closed for 10 minutes as the Cambodian 27,000-ton bulk carrier Bella was heading straight for one of the anchorage structures. The ship was deflected by a swift response from the navy.[30]

On 5 June 2006, a maintenance vehicle burst into flames in the east-bound railway tunnel at about 21:30. Nobody was hurt; its crew of three fled to the other tunnel and escaped. The fire was put out shortly before midnight, and the vehicle was removed from the tunnel the next day. Train service resumed on 6 June at reduced speed, and normal service was restored on 12 June.

See also


  1. Storebæ (2013). "Tolls". A/S Storebælt. Retrieved 18 June 2016.
  2. DSB: Passagerens håndbog (in Danish). DSB. 1990. p. 73. ISBN 87-7025-152-5.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 "Fakta og historie". A/S Storebælt. Retrieved 18 November 2008.
  4. "The Bridge". A/S Storebælt. Retrieved 4 December 2008.
  5. Marstrand, Wilhelm. "Det store vej- og broprojekt" Ingeniøren, 14 March 1936. Accessed: 2 December 2014.
  6. Hellesen, Jette Kjærulff; Ole Tuxen. "Planer om fast forbindelse". Korsør i 15.000 år (in Danish). Korsør Municipality. Retrieved 2009-06-30.
  7. Hellesen, Jette Kjærulff; Ole Tuxen. "Korsør og Storebæltsforbindelsen 1973-95". Korsør i 15.000 år (in Danish). Korsør Municipality. Retrieved 2009-06-30.
  8. Hellesen, Jette Kjærulff; Ole Tuxen. "Den faste forbindelse". Korsør i 15.000 år (in Danish). Korsør Municipality. Retrieved 2009-06-30.
  9. Ministry for Foreign Affairs (Finland) (1994-03-24), "Kirjallinen kysymys: Suomen valtion Juutinrauman siltahankkeesta saamista korvauksista", KK 94/1994 vp (Finnish) / (Swedish), Parliament of Finland
  10. Economic analysis
  11. 1 2 3 "To broer og en tunnel 2008". Sund & Bælt. May 2008. Retrieved 18 November 2008.
  12. "Great Belt Fixed Link Rail and Road Project, Denmark". Railway Technology. Retrieved 8 January 2011.
  13. "The final span over the Öresund". Hochtief. Retrieved 8 January 2011.
  14. "Construction Facts - The Sourcebook of Statistics, Records and Resources" (PDF), Engineering News Record, McGraw Hill, vol. 251, Number 20a, November 2003, retrieved 9 August 2014
  15. "Largest cruise ship passes bridge challenge". USA Today. 2009-11-01. Retrieved 2010-11-26.
  16. Andersen, Ulrik. "Drying the Great Belt Bridge cables" (in Danish) Ingeniøren, 20 September 2013. Accessed: 21 September 2013. Video of cable sleeving
  17. Brøndum, Christian. "Pengemaskinen på Storebælt skal op i fart" Berlingske, 18 September 2013. Accessed: 17 October 2013.
  18. Kirchgässner, Martin. "Specialists wrap the cables" (in Danish) Ingeniøren, 15 June 2014. Accessed: 15 June 2014. Graphics of crawler Photos of operation
  19. "Great Belt West Bridge". Structurae. Retrieved 18 November 2008.
  20. "New diving place in Denmark" Underwater Photo
  21. 1 2 Andersen HL (2002). "Decompression sickness during construction of the Great Belt Tunnel, Denmark". Undersea and Hyperbaric Medicine Journal. 29 (3): 172–88. PMID 12670120. Retrieved 2010-11-14.
  22. Claus F. Baunkjær. "Cautious traffic assumptions for the Fehmarnbelt project" Fehmarn Belt Fixed Link, 28 March 2013. Accessed: 6 October 2013.
  23. Storebælt
  24. "Toll Charges - Storebælt" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-11-25.
  25. DSB: Find rejsen, se prisen og køb!
  26. Danish:
  27. Report in Danish
  28. European Foundation for Improvement of Living and Working condition
  29. "Rammed ship: Skipper was drunk". News24. 2005-03-07. Retrieved 2008-06-04.
  30. "Storebæltsbro nær påsejlet af fragtskib" (in Danish). Ingeniøren. 2001-05-16. Retrieved 2008-06-04.
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Coordinates: 55°20′N 10°58′E / 55.333°N 10.967°E / 55.333; 10.967

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