RogerBW's Blog

Danish Ferries 03 August 2014

What's the best way to cross the various bodies of water round Denmark? Let's check this with actual data.

I have two crossings of the Øresundsbron usefully tracked on GPS, and one use of the ferry between Helsingborg and Helsingør at the northern end of the Øresund Strait.

Taking an arbitrary point west of Copenhagen (near Vallensbæk, where the two routes converge) as one end of the trip, and the hotel car-park in Helsingborg as the other, I find:

Øresundsbron: 76 miles, 1:10:57; 76.02 miles, 1:13:11

Ferry: 45.51 miles, 2:01:57

Øresund crossing map

The ferry includes around three miles on the actual crossing (the tracker was able to continue to receive GPS signals), so in terms of driving distance it's more like 42.6 miles. None of these tracks is actually terribly precise, because some of them include food shopping, stops to refuel, and so on. I'd prefer to have more data, of course.

So that seems like a fairly plain tradeoff: 33 miles less driving by ferry (which runs every fifteen minutes or so), or arrive about fifty minutes sooner by bridge. (Which is odd, since most of the routefinder sites I've tried recommend the ferry as a few minutes faster then the bridge; I wonder whether perhaps they don't take the ferry's travel time into account, not to mention the urban driving that stands between the Helsingborg port and anywhere more useful.) The toll for the bridge was 435 SEK this year, while the ferry cost 468 SEK, but extra fuel costs of about 45 SEK for 33 miles more than made up the difference. On the other hand, the view from the bridge is much better! This one's pretty much a toss-up, depending on whether we're in a hurry (bridge) or want a break from driving (ferry).

Further south, there's another decision to be made: drive all the way west across Denmark to Kolding and turn south to Flensburg/Flensborg, or cut south from København to take the ferry across the Fehmarn Belt (between Rødby and Puttgarden)? The ferry route is heavily used, known locally as the Vogelfluglinie (bird flight line). Again, we have numbers: three tracks along the Kolding route, though we've only taken the ferry once. (Once at a lay-by in Denmark we were asked by some sort of tourism person why we were taking the road route rather than the ferry; here's the answer, at last.)

Here my waypoints are the southern motorway junction by Solrød Strand and the Rade autobahn junction south-west of Hamburg (since the two routes take different paths through Hamburg and join up on the far side).

Storebælt/Fehmarn crossing map

This time the timing numbers are much closer. Via Kolding: 290.26 miles, 4:29:36; 291.78 miles, 5:03:50 (very variable speeds that time, probably because of rain and heavy traffic); 286.97 miles, 4:24:30. Via the Fehmarn ferry, 206.44 miles (less about 11.42 for the ferry, so that's 195.02 on the road), 4:56:25.

It looks as though in normal circumstances the ferry will take about half an hour longer (that's a worst case, as we arrived just as one was finishing loading and had to wait for the next one half an hour later), and save around 100 road miles. The difference in fuel cost is about 108 DKK; the ferry cost 650-odd DKK last year, while the toll on the Storebælt Bridge on the Kolding route is 235 DKK (but again it's a lovely view). So overall, the ferry costs 307 DKK more than the road route and usually takes longer.

That said, if I were driving on my own, I'd probably take both ferries, because it's a break from being behind the wheel. With two of us this is less of a concern.

While checking details for this post, I discovered that there's to be a road and rail tunnel replacing the Rødby-Puttgarden ferry across the Fehmarn Belt, supposed to open around 2020-2021. Well, it will be much faster; it should take about three and a quarter hours for the same trip segment, 206 driving miles. But eleven miles of tunnel, the longest immersed tunnel in the world, with roadbed some 45m below the water surface? That's five times the length of the Drogden Tunnel under the Øresund, and under three and a half times as much water. The potential for things to go horribly wrong is quite large. I would have found the original plan, for a bridge (maybe even on the Gedser-Rostock route) rather more appealing.

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