The Great Belt Fixed Link (Danish: Storebæltsforbindelsen) is the fixed link between the Danish islands of Zealand and Funen across the Great Belt. It consists of a road suspension bridge and railway tunnel between Zealand and the island Sprogø, as well as a box girder bridge 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 beam bridge or the link in its entirety. The suspension bridge, 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 architectural practice Dissing+Weitling.

The link replaces the ferry service which 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; while the original intent was to complete the railway link three years before opening the road connection, the link was opened to rail traffic in 1997 and road traffic in 1998. At an estimated cost of DKK 21.4 billion (1988 prices), the link is the largest construction project in Danish history.

Operation & maintenance of the link is 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 10 minutes. The construction of the Great Belt Fixed Link and the Øresund Bridge have, together, enabled one to drive from mainland Europe to Sweden and the rest of Scandinavia through Denmark, providing an alternative to the significantly longer land route through Finland. Cyclists are not permitted to use the bridge. They have to catch a 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 modern-day 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, itself presented plans for a bridge in 1934. In 1948, the Ministry for Public Works (now the Ministry of Transport) established a commission to investigate the implications of a fixed link.

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

The design was eventually carried out by the architecture practice Dissing+Weitling together with the engineering firm COWI.

Construction of the Great Belt Fixed 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 have been unable to pass beneath the bridge. The two countries negotiated a financial compensation of 90 million Danish kroner, and Finland withdrew the lawsuit.


The construction of the fixed link across the Great Belt became the biggest building project ever 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, aligned via the small island of Sprogø in the middle of the Great Belt. In general terms, the project comprised three different construction 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). The work of lifting and placing the elements was carried out by Ballast Nedam using a floating crane.

The East Bridge

Built between 1991 and 1998, the East Bridge (Østbroen) is a road 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), making it the world's third-longest suspension bridge span, surpassed only by the Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge and Xihoumen Bridge. The Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge was opened two months earlier. The East Bridge was assumed to be the longest at completion, but was delayed and so number two when opened. The vertical clearance for ships is 65 metres (213 ft), meaning the world's largest cruise ship just fits under.

At 254 metres (833 ft) above sea level, the two pylons of the East Bridge are the highest points on solid structures in Denmark. (Only some radio masts 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. Additionally, a total of 19 concrete pillars (12 on the Zealand side, 7 by Sprogø), each separated by a distance of 193 metres (633 ft), carry the road deck outside the span.

The West Bridge

The West Bridge (Vestbroen) is a box girder bridge 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). It is essentially two separate, adjacent bridges above water. The northern one carries rail traffic and the southern one carries road traffic. However, the pillars of the two bridges rest on common foundations below sea level. The West Bridge was built between 1988 and 1994; its road/rail deck comprises 63 sections, supported by 62 pillars.

The tunnel

The twin bored tunnel tubes of the East Tunnel (Østtunnelen) are 8,024 metres (4.986 mi) long each. Between the two main tunnels, 31 connecting tunnels were placed at 250 metres (820 ft) intervals. The equipment that is necessary for train operation in the tunnels is installed in the connecting tunnels. The connecting tunnels also serve as emergency escape routes.

There were delays and cost overruns in the tunnel construction. The plans was to open it for traffic in 1993, giving the trains a head start of three years over the road traffic. In reality the train traffic started in 1997 and road traffic in 1998. During construction of the tunnels, the sea bed gave way and one of the tunnel pipes was flooded. The water continued to rise and reached the end at Sprogø, where it continued into the (still dry) other tunnel pipe. The water thus 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 tunnel 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 finally stopped these drives and the tunnels were completed by the two Sprogø machines.

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

Traffic implications

Prior to the opening of the link, an average of 8,000 cars used the ferries across the Great Belt every day. In 2008, an average of 30,200 cars travelled the link each day. The increase of the traffic volume is partly caused by the general growth of traffic, partly diversion of traffic volume from other ferry services and air services, and finally the so-called traffic leap, that is, new traffic generated by the improved ease, facility and lower price of crossing the Great Belt.

The fixed link has produced considerable time savings for travel and transport between eastern and western Denmark. Previously, the average elapsed time involved in car transfer by ferry across the Great Belt was approximately 90 minutes, including the waiting time at the harbours. The time was considerably higher during peak volume periods, that is, weekends and holidays. After the opening of the Great Belt Link, the elapsed time has fallen to between 10 and 15 minutes.

For those who travel by train, the time savings are even greater. The travel time has been reduced by 60 minutes, and there are many more seats available than previously, because more railway cars may be added to a train as the train does not have to fit onto a ferry. The total 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: Copenhagen–Odense 1 hour 15 minutes, Copenhagen–Aarhus 2 hours 30 minutes, Copenhagen–Aalborg 3 hours 55 minutes and Copenhagen–Esbjerg 2 hours 35 minutes.

The air connections Copenhagen–Odense and Copenhagen–Esbjerg have been closed down, and the train has taken a leading market share between Copenhagen and Aarhus.

From an international perspective, the link — together with the Oresund Bridge — provide a direct fixed connection between western Continental Europe and northern Scandinavia, eventually connecting all parts of the European Union except for 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 long distance.

For cargo trains, the fixed links mean a large improvement. Cargo trains can go between Sweden and Germany, and even 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 rail in southern Denmark and northern Germany.

For passenger trains between Copenhagen and Germany, the Great Belt is used for the night trains, which are too long to fit on the ferries. For day trains on the Copenhagen-Hamburg route the Fehmarn Belt ferries are still used, with short diesel trains.

In 2020 however, the Fehmarn Belt Fixed Link is expected to be completed with much of this international passenger and cargo traffic being shifted from the Great Belt Fixed Link. This more direct route would also have the effect of shortening the rail journey from Hamburg to Copenhagen from 4¾ to 3½ hours.

Toll charge

As of 2011, the toll for driving the fixed link was as follows:

Environmental effects

Environmental considerations have been an integral part of the construction project of the fixed link across the Great Belt, and have been of decisive significance for the choice of alignment and determination of the design of the construction. Environmental considerations were the reason why the 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 the construction work began.

As concerns the water flows, the Great Belt 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 concerning the water flows is that the flow is now almost at the level it was at before the bridge was built. The fixed link across the Great Belt has generated increased road traffic volume, which in itself has meant increased air pollution. However, there has been significant savings in the energy consumption of the east-west traffic 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. Also 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 ferry transport, as opposed to transport 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’s borders that goes east–west across the link shows very clear energy savings.

During 2009, 7 large wind turbines, likely Vestas 3MWs totalling 21MW capacity, have been erected in the sea north of the island of Sprogø in order to contribute to the electrical consumption of the Great Belt Link. Their hub height 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.


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

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 M/V 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.

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 due to a swift response from the navy.

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 2006.


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