as well. “The Fixed Link will not only benefit the
centers of Hamburg and Copenhagen, but also
offer opportunities for the regions between both
metropolises,” Mr. Nielsen says.
The nature of these underwater tunnel projects
means their project teams must put thorough
plans in place, Mr. Hailey says. “It’s really about
being prepared—and making proper plans if things
do go wrong,” he says.
With underwater tunnels, “the big unknown is
always ground conditions,” Mr. Hailey says. Poor
ground conditions make boring a tunnel difficult,
while an environmentally sensitive seabed site discourages an immersed design approach. “You can
do lots of ground investigations, digging trial holes,
but with a tunnel you’re never really quite sure
what you’re going to find until you get there,” Mr.
The Eurasia Tunnel project team contended
with unseen challenges. The initial geotechnical
investigation had not been carried out along the
exact line of the tunnel, and the tunnel’s mechanical and electrical needs had not been fully considered. As a result, the project team had to deepen
the alignment and increase the size of the tunnel
diameter. It also planned extensively for emergency
situations, installing an exit route between the
upper and lower decks and creating a ventilation
system that minimizes the spread of smoke.
Because of such comprehensive preparations,
when these initiatives finally get the green light
from funders and government agencies, they
can very quickly move into the execution phase.
Because the Danish Parliament authorized Femern
A/S to conduct limited advanced activities on the
Danish side, the project team was able to begin
preparations for the seaside factory that will build
the tunnel while still negotiating bids with potential contractors.
Given the projects’ large budgets and corre-
spondingly high cost of delays, their owners often
depend on public-private partnerships (PPP) to
take the financial risk off the funders and place it
onto the contractors. With the Eurasia Tunnel,
In Miami, Florida, USA, the
US$1 billion PortMiami tunnel was
scheduled to open in May 2014
after four years of construction, but
project closure was delayed by three
months while engineers corrected
last-minute glitches including faulty
exhaust fans and a leaky drainage
pipe. The project’s PPP structure
incentivized speedy resolutions: The
contractor paid Miami’s govern-
ment US$9 million for the delays.
“You don’t let the contractor
leave until everything’s perfect,”
Chris Hodgkins, vice president of
MAT Concessionaire, the consortium that built
the tunnel, told the Miami Herald. —Novid Parsi
Projects that seem fantastic today could be a reality tomorrow. Here
are a few of the more far-fetched tunnels proposed in recent years.
n U.K. to Ireland: A Welsh think tank has discussed an underwater rail
tunnel from Ireland to the United Kingdom. The Chartered Institute
of Logistics and Transport Cymru-Wales estimates a tunnel linking
the cities of Holyhead, Wales to Dublin, Ireland would cost £ 15 billion and could be finished by the end of the century.
n China to the United States: Chinese officials are reportedly considering a rail link from Beijing, China to Alaska, USA. The 8,000-mile
( 12,875-kilometer) path would travel north through Siberia before
tunneling under the Bering Strait.
n Dalian, China to Yantai, China: At 123 kilometers (76 miles) in
length, this US$36 billion tunnel would be the world’s longest underwater tunnel if completed. Connecting the cities of Dalian and Yantai
across the Bohai Sea, the tunnel’s high-speed rail line would slash
travel time from eight hours by ferry to just 40 minutes. A government feasibility study is reportedly underway.
n Japan to South Korea: Proposals for a 200-kilometer (124-mile) undersea tunnel have been around since 1917, with one suggested route
linking Karatsu, Japan to Geoje Island, Korea. But in 2011, the Korean
government said projected costs—KRW100 trillion—for several tunnels made them economically unfeasible.
The Eurasia Tunnel will
connect the Asian and
European sides of
Istanbul, Turkey. The
underwater tunnel, will
cut travel time from 100
minutes to 15 minutes.