(A rabbit hole is an area where I start looking at a single page, and then all of a sudden I’m reading chunks of Wikipedia, or considering more and more expensive and featureful alternatives. I figure that if I’ve gone down one, I should save you the hassle of doing so, by summarising the trip.)
Denmark has a lot of bridges. This really shouldn’t be surprising; it is, after all, a nation of islands, and it makes sense that they want to join them up. Here are five bridges (technically, schemes, since two are bridge/tunnel hybrids; one is still being planned) that are important connections, which between them join Scandinavia to western Europe without the need for ferries. It’s of note that, unlike most of Britain’s estuarial suspension spans, these projects tend to carry both road and rail traffic.
Nye Lillebæltsbro, opened in 1970 to replace the old Little Belt Bridge (built 1929-1935), joins the Jutland peninsula (which has a land border with Germany) to the island of Fyn. A rather stubby suspension bridge, it’s probably the least charming of the structures listed here, but still, it’s an important part of the United Nations E 20 route.
The Farøbroerne (Farø Bridges), opened in 1985, join Falster and Zealand, and again replace an older bridge, the Storstrømsbroen (which connects the islands slightly further west, has a documentary devoted to it, and dates from a similar period to the old Little Belt Bridge, 1933-1937). The name comes from the small, almost uninhabited Farø Island that is the midpoint, splitting the crossing into two bridges. The northernmost is quite dull, but the southern cable-stayed span has graceful, diamond-shaped pylons surrounding the deck. (These bridges are the exception to the rule mentioned above, carrying only road traffic; rail traffic still passes over the Storstrømsbroen.)
If there’s one bridge people outside Denmark have heard of, it’s likely to be Storebæltsforbindelsen, the Great Belt Link. This project would have briefly had the longest suspension span in the world, had it not been delayed, allowing the Akashi-Kaikyō Bridge, completed two months sooner, to take the record. (It will fall to third when surpassed by a bridge under construction in China.) In addition to this span, there are two long approaches, a tunnel, and a smaller bridge from an intermediate small island. Opened in 1998, this linked Zealand to Fyn, and hence Jutland (via the Nye Lillebæltsbro mentioned earlier), completing a network that linked together the most important Danish islands with the European mainland.
In July 2000, Øresundsbron was opened, linking Zealand to the Swedish city of Malmö on the Scandinavian peninsula. Whereas the previous three projects were internal, this is the longest international crossing in the world, and makes it possible to travel from Sweden, through Denmark, to Germany. (All three are signatories of the Schengen agreements, so these crossings involve no passport controls.) Øresundsbron carries UN route E20, and like the Great Belt Link, combines a bridge (cable-stayed, with a 490m span) with the Drogdentunnelen, just over 4 kilometres long. The two sections are joined on an artificial bridge, Peberholm.
That’s not all, though. While these connections theoretically link Germany and Denmark, the detour through Jutland is time-consuming, so daytime trains from Hamburg to København cross the Femern Belt on a ferry. Unsurprisingly, there is a scheme underway to replace this with a bridge. The Femern Bælt-forbindelsen is scheduled for completion in 2018, and will complete a more direct link to the German mainland (via the Fehmarn Sound Bridge inside Germany itself). The plan currently proposes three cable-stayed spans of 724m, carrying four road lanes and two railway tracks. The plan saw off opposition from those who suggested an alternative from Gesder to Rostock, somewhat to the east, who argued that the Hamburg alignment was based on Cold War thinking. Unfortunately, it’s also a much longer crossing (40km rather than 18km), so despite some political support, the Fehmarn Belt scheme triumphed. The German parliament has just approved the bridge, and construction should start this year.
(This concludes the first rabbit hole.)