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British firms show little interest for Fehmarnbelt

Lack of British interest in the main contracts for the £4.4bn Fehmarnbelt tunnel scheme “disappointed” the landmark project’s promoter, it has emerged.


Poor showing: Only three British firms are on the project’s shortlist

Nine teams this week handed in their tender documents to client Femern for four prestigious deals on the 19km tunnel link between Denmark and Germany.

Contractors from Germany, Denmark, France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and Belgium were shortlisted last summer to oversee construction work on the road and rail scheme. Just three British firms made the shortlist for the tunnel north; tunnel south; portals and ramps; and dredging and land reclamation packages. All consultants, the Brits involved are Mott MacDonald, Capita Symonds and High-Point Rendel.

Senior representatives of Femern were present at a London event held by UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) last week to encourage pursuit of opportunities that remain on the project.

UKTI Denmark market adviser Mark Chapman said: “It has been commented that there is a disappointment in the lack of interest in the project from UK companies. At an event prior to prequalification, one of the directors of Femern said he was a little disappointed. This should be seen as a compliment: they want the Brits involved.”

Femern has repeatedly expressed its desire to see UK contractors get involved in the project (NCE 11 October 2012).

UKTI Germany market advisor Gisella Heine said two opportunities had recently been advertised by the organisation after a meeting with Hochtief, which is leading a consortium shortlisted for all four main contracts.

“Response to the business opportunities was limited,” she told delegates in London.

Chapman urged: “Register with us and look for opportunities because we will be updating them. We are doing our bit, you have to do your bit. This year is key. We need to start looking at ways we can work with those guys and plug you into the value chain.”

Construction is expected to start next summer on the immersed tube tunnel, which will be created from 89 elements produced in a purpose-built factory. Each will weigh about 73,000t and be more than 200m long. The crossing will be the world’s longest immersed tube tunnel used for road and rail.

Femern analyst Signe Schilling told delegates in London last week that plenty of opportunities remained on the scheme. “It is not too late to be a subcontractor on this project,” she said.

The tunnel will create 3,000 construction jobs each year on the Danish side alone, plus a wealth of roles in the temporary workers’ city, from catering to hairdressing, said Schilling.

Even beyond the Fehmarnbelt project, there is a healthy pipeline of opportunities in Denmark. Femern Belt Development director Stig Romer Winther, said more than £32bn of ­construction work was expected to take place between 2015 and 2021.

“Denmark cannot do all these projects by ourselves,” he said. “Even if we brought in all the unemployed people in the country we would not be able to do them all. We need to import technical expertise and expert labour.”

Romer Winther played down the lack of British activity on the tunnel scheme, citing the involvement of the three consultants.

“There are still opportunities for British companies in Denmark,” he added. “They have good corporate social responsibility and are a good mental fit for Denmark.”

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