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Fehmarnbelt crossing on hunt for bidders

Scheme promoter Femern has kicked off a scramble for work on Europe’s €5.5bn (£4.6bn) Fehmarnbelt mega project that will link Germany and Denmark via a vast 18km long, 42m wide immersed tube tunnel.

It told a packed industry day last week that it was on the verge of launching the prequalification process for the highly lucrative civils contracts on the link.

More than 500 engineers representing 17 countries were offered an array of information about the contracts to build the vast scheme that will create a twin track railway and four lane motorway beneath the Fehmarnbelt.

The work has been divided into four design and build contracts, with the dredging and reclamation work and the portals, ramps and land works expected to be worth €400M (£334M) and €600M (£502M) respectively, and the tunnel north and tunnel south contracts worth an eye-watering £1bn each.

Demonstrate experience

Femern technical director Steen Lykke said that the successful joint venture (JV) bidders would have to be able to demonstrate experience on similar immersed tunnel jobs. The scheme calls for a 42m wide by 9m high tunnel that will comprise around 80, 217m long standard elements as well as special elements for maintenance and operation.

About 15.5M.m3 of material is expected to be excavated during the construction.

“It is absolutely vital that they have experience on jobs that are similar to this,” said Lykke, although he also acknowledged that no one would have worked on a job on this immense scale.

“The JV partners will be large scale international contractors, but we also arranged today for smaller specialists to find the major contractors and build the relationships,” he added.

The move opens the door for a significant number of UK contractor and consultant players to feature in bidding teams. Arup, in JV with Danish Ramboll and Dutch Tunnel Engineering Consultants, is the design team behind the immersed tunnel plan favoured by Femern, and so is already well connected to the scheme.

Arup, as well as Halcrow, Aecom and Capita Symonds, has also worked on similar schemes such as the Øresund Link between Denmark and Sweden, the Busan-Geoje crossing in Korea and the Hong Kong-Macau Link.

Limited UK contractor involvement

Major UK contractor involvement was more limited on these schemes, with Laing the sole ­representative.
Consultants High-Point Rendel, Mott MacDonald and Capita Symonds, along with contractors Tarmac and Costain, also have immersed tunnel experience from schemes at Conwy, Medway and the Second Tyne Crossing.

A vital aspect of the bid process will be the JVs’ ability to demonstrate that they will be ready, willing and able to work on a complex cross border project that requires sensitivity to a number of cultures.

Immersed tunnel predecessors and who worked on them

4km long Øresund tunnel
ØTC JV consisting of NCC (Sweden), Pihl & Son (Denmark), Dumez-GTM (France), Laing (UK), and Boskalis (Netherlands). Capita Symonds was designer.
8.2km long Busan-Geoje immersed tunnel
Lead consultant Cowi, main contractor South Korean contractor Daewoo Engineering & Construction Company, Halcrow and Dutch TEC provided the
latter’s technical consulting services.
6km long Hong Kong-Macau
Preliminary design by a JV comprising Arup, Highway & Planning Design Institute (Beijing), Cowi, First Harbour. Arup and Aecom are now doing detailed design.

1.5km long Tyne Crossing
High-Point Rendel and Bouygues Travaux Publics
300m long Medway tunnel
Mott MacDonald, and a JV of Tarmac and HBM Civil Engineering
1.1km long Conwy tunnel
Travers Morgan (now Capita Symonds) and Christiani & Nielson (originally Danish), with a Costain/Tarmac contractor JV


“The contractors … will have to prepare themselves for dealing with two different cultures and administrative procedures and in three different languages - English, German and Danish,” said Femern plan approval and environment project director Claus Dynesen.

Speaking to NCE ahead of the industry day, regional developer Femernbelt Development managing director Stig Rømer Winther said that he had already been advising local Danish firms to ensure they have workers fluent in English and German in anticipation of the influx of firms from abroad.

Beyond the technical skills and the cultural awareness, Femern stressed that the formation of the JVs would be critical. While allowing for firms to bid for multiple contracts, as well as leaving it open for them to join multiple JVs if they wish, the promoter warned against overreliance on subcontracting for the key works.

Control over subcontrators

“The group must have full and active control over its subcontractors,” said project support director Derek Levick. He added that Femern was aware of management contractor models, where a business, a company or even a trading house will effectively subcontract the whole works. “This is not something we will accept,” he said. “What we are looking for in a joint venture is for each of the joint venture partners to have something described as the three Cs… the capacity, the competence and the capability to execute significant portions of the work of their own accord.And we’ll use the prequalification process to try and ensure this.”

The procurement method will be competitive dialogue (see box right) and prequalification is expected to begin after the summer and should last for around five to seven months, said Lykke.

The tender procedure will therefore start at the beginning of next year. All four contracts will be progressed in parallel, although he stressed that he could not promise that all would be signed on the same day. However, the final decision-making part of the process should only last between two and three months so that work can begin in 2013/2014. Final approvals will be sought in tandem.

The scheme is being financed by a Danish government guaranteed loan with the cost of the project recovered via access charges levied on train operators as well as road tolls. It is expected to pay for itself around 39 years from its scheduled 2020 opening date, although it is designed to last 120 years.

The scheme is being financed by a Danish government guaranteed loan with the cost of the project recovered via access charges levied on train operators as well as road tolls. It is expected to pay for itself around 39 years from its scheduled 2020 opening date, although it is designed to last 120 years.

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