The Danish Parliament has approved a plan to construct an underwater tunnel to Germany, thereby reducing the time and cost of transportation between Western Europe and Scandinavia.

The tunnel will be 18 kilometers (11.6 miles) in length and is expected to be completed by the year 2020. Construction will commence in 2014. The structure will link the Danish isle of Lolland and Germany’s Fehmarn isle (each of which is already connected by bridges to their respective nations).

A budget of 32-billion Danish kroner (or $5.9-billion) has been earmarked for the project. In exchange for financing the project, Denmark will have ownership of the tunnel and receive pay toll income.
Denmark earlier rejected a proposal to build a bridge, favoring the tunnel as a safer and more environmentally-friendly alternative.

Project officials claim that once the tunnel is complete, the length of a railway journey between Copenhagen and Hamburg will be reduced to three hours from 4.5 hours. Travel time to Sweden, which links to Denmark via the Oresund sea bridge, will also be dramatically cut.

According to German newspaper Der Spiegel, plans for a sea-link between the nations go all the way back to the 1920s.

However, some on the German side are concerned about the risks of accidents the construction would raise.

About 40,000 ships pass through the Fehmarn Belt (the body of water the tunnel would be built below) and that figure could double by the year 2030.

Environmentalists are opposed to the tunnel because its construction would disturb the sea floor, bring up sludge, and displace animals like seals, sea lions and whales in the area.