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Tunnelling: The race to win tunnel prize

Contractors are gearing up to submit their bids for the world’s longest immersed tube tunnel, as Margo Cole reports.

Fehmarn tunnel portal

This is a big year for the massive Fehmarnbelt project to build a fixed road and rail link between German and Denmark. In May last year the €5.5bn (£4.5bn) project’s promoter Femern
prequalified nine different contracting consortiums for the four civil engineering contracts that together make up the 17.6km immersed tube tunnel and its approaches.
Last autumn those prequalified organisations received the tender documents, and they are now preparing their technical bids ready for final submission at the end of 2014. The client expects to award the construction contracts in the summer of 2015.

Femern says that constructing the coast-to-coast link is “such a large and complex project that it cannot be undertaken by one contractor”. The task of building the 42m wide structure that will contain a twin track railway and four lane motorway is divided into four major contracts: tunnel north; tunnel south; portals and ramps; and dredging and land reclamation (NCE 29 March 2012). Between three and five consortiums prequalified to tender for each of the four contracts.

Location map

According to the client, all the applicants were carefully considered to ensure that they met the stipulated financial requirements, and that they could make the necessary guarantees and, not least, have the technical and managerial expertise that Femern needs.

“We’re very satisfied with the outcome,” says Femern technical director Steen Lykke. “These are strong consortia and we’re convinced that they will all be able to take on the task,” “We therefore anticipate healthy competition with regard to methods, innovation and price.”  

The four contracts

  • Dredging the seabed and land reclamation Dredging a trench approximately 18km long, 80m wide and 10m deep in the Fehmarnbelt, where the tunnel will be placed. The resulting 15M.m3 of dredged material will be reused for land reclamation, primarily along the coast of Lolland and, to a lesser extent, along the coast of Fehmarn. The contract also includes other dredging work, such as the harbour basin for the tunnel element production site, east of Rødbyhavn.
  • Constructing the northern section of the tunnel Building half the tunnel (9km) and, consequently, building half of the tunnel element construction site in Rødbyhavn and producing transporting and immersing half of the tunnel elements - approximately 40 standard elements and five special elements.
  • Constructing the southern section of the tunnel The same as the northern section contract, but for the other half of the tunnel.
  • Constructing portal structures, ramps and associated land facilities Building the tunnel’s two portals and cut and cover tunnels on land in Germany and Denmark, as well as entry and exit ramps and connection to the existing transport installations on land.

All four of the construction contracts will be let as design and build projects, with the contractors responsible for the detailed design and choice of construction methods. Meanwhile Femern has been doing all the preliminary analyses, environmental studies and geotechnical studies required for the approval process and for the final project. This includes things like noise, dust, water quality, waste management and access.

The authorities in both Germany and Denmark have still to approve the project. In Denmark this is in the form of a Construction Act, while in Germany the scheme must meet the requirements of legislation in the Schleswig-Holstein region.

Femern has attached a wide range of conditions and requirements to the contractors’ choice of design and construction, especially when it comes to environmental requirements, which will be specified in theDanish Construction Act and the German building permit.

The design and build contracts will be fixed price, with contractors committed to their price unless the client requests changes during the course of the contract, or if the terms and conditions for building the tunnel prove to be different than were assumed when the contracts were signed.

Femern says that one of the reasons it has opted for this type of contract is “because it is the clearest and most effective way of spreading risk”. The company says: “Who carries what responsibility and what risk must be clearly evident. In this way, there will be less danger of a mismatch between the design and the execution methods.

“The contractor is responsible for the risks that he can control; for example the choice of construction methods, compliance with the quality requirements for the end product, internal scheduling, management of own costs, prevention of accidents at the construction site and management of subcontractors.

“By contrast, the client retains the risks that the contractor has no control over, as well as the risks that one has to assume that the contractor cannot reasonably eliminate or estimate.”

A Femern spokesman told NCE that one big advantage of going for design and build contracts is that the contractors will have the opportunity to be innovative and use new techniques and equipment.

“The construction industry’s methods are constantly evolving, and experience from previous projects can be brought to the next task,” he said. “The form of contract ensures that Femern A/S gets the maximum benefit from the contractors’ latest technical and performance breakthroughs.”

Who’s in line for the work?

The following consortiums have prequalified to bid for the four construction contracts
Tunnel north

  • Fehmarn Belt Contractors
  • Femern Link Contractors
  • Salini-Impregilo-Samsung-Bunte joint venture (JV)
  • OHL-Daewoo-Daelim JV
  • Immersia

Tunnel south

  • Fehmarn Belt Contractors
  • Femern Link Contractors
  • Salini-Impregilo-Samsung-Bunte
  • OHL-Daewoo-Daelim JV
  • Immersia


Portals and ramps

  • Fehmarn Belt Contractors
  • Femern Link Contractors
  • Salini-Impregilo-Samsung-Bunte JV
  • OHL-Daewoo-Daelim JV

Dredging and land reclamation

  • Fehmarn Belt Contractors
  • Femern Link Contractors
  • Jan De Nul NV

The consortiums are

Fehmarn Belt Contractors

  • Hochtief (Germany)
  • Ed Züblin (Germany)
  • Boskalis (Netherlands)
  • Van Oord (Netherlands)

The consortium’s consultants for the two tunnel contracts are Capita Symonds and Grontmij

Femern Link Contractors

  • Vinci Construction Grands Projets (France)
  • Per Aarsleff (Denmark)
  • E Pihl & Søn (Denmark)
  • CFE (Belgium)
  • Soletanche Bachy International (France)
  • Bam Civiel (Netherlands)
  • Bam International (Netherlands)
  • Wayss & Freytag (Germany)
  • Max Bögl (Germany)
  • Dredging International (Belgium)


OHL-Daewoo-Daelim JV

  • Obrascòn Huarte Lain (Spain)
  • Daewoo Engineering and Construction (South Korea)
  • Daelim Industrial (South Korea)
  • The consortium’s consultants include Aecom


JV Salini-Impregilo-Samsung-Bunte

  • Salini (Italy)
  • Impregilo (Italy)
  • Samsung C&T Corporation (South Korea)
  • Johann Bunte (Germany)

The consortium is using a joint venture of consultants called Fehmarnbelt Consultants, which includes Mott MacDonald.


  • FCC Construcción, (Spain)
  • NV Besix (Belgium)
  • Jan De Nul (Belgium)


The shortlisted consortiums are currently preparing preliminary bids that do not include a price. Then, in the summer, Femern will enter into “competitive dialogue” with the consortiums. The client believes this is necessary “to achieve the best solution in terms of the technical, financial and execution aspects of a project as large and complex as the fixed link across the Fehmarnbelt”.

This dialogue will be based on the preliminary bids, technical issues relating to each project, and pre-selected topics such as the way the construction sites are set up and managed, interfaces between the contracts and the distribution of risk between client and contractor.

At the end of the dialogue, the consortiums will prepare their final bids, which will include the fixed price. Final bids are due to be submitted at the end of this year.

Femern is keen to emphasise that the winning bid will not necessarily be the cheapest, but instead is one where “the price, risk and execution methods are the most optimum and safest to implement”. “The great advantage of the dialogue at the tender stage is that both Femern and the contractor can be absolutely sure that the task and its requirements are properly understood and that the final bid is thus also of high quality and robust for the price, as well as that the planning and execution of the task is founded upon a realistic and informed basis,” says the company spokesman.

The winning bidders will be announced in summer 2015, with construction set to begin soon after.

Tunnel Solution

Fehmarn immersed tube


During the initial design and planning stage for the new crossing, Femern used all the technical, financial and environmental data available to compare bored tunnel and immersed tube options.
The reasons for opting for an immersed tube were:

  • Construction of the bored tunnel would require a larger construction site on Fehmarn, but its effects on Lolland would be less severe compared to those of the immersed tunnel. It would also avoid a direct impact on the Fehmarnbelt’s marine environment. However, the immersed tunnel’s impact would be predominantly temporary in that it would be confined to the construction phase.
  • The overall technical challenge associated with the construction of a bored tunnel is much higher than for an immersed tunnel. The dredging and immersion process for the immersed tunnel relies on proven technology that would hardly be affected by the complex geological conditions of the Fehmarnbelt, while these conditions would pose a significant challenge to tunnel boring machines (TBMs). A bored tunnel would require the world’s largest TBMs.
  • The estimated construction costs for the immersed tunnel are €5.5bn (£4.4bn), while the bored tunnel would cost €6.8bn (£5.6bn). It would also take a longer to construct (eight years compared with six and a half year, and the financing would take longer to repay making the project uneconomic.
  • The immersed tube tunnel is expected to pay back its costs 39 year



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