A royal ceremony marked the placing of the last section of the spectacular 7·8 km Øresund bridge on August 14

HRH CROWN PRINCE Frederik of Denmark and HRH Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden met in an unusual place last month. Their encounter took place 68m above sea level, on the upper deck of the final section of the bridge across the western approach of the Øresund. It was midday on August 14, and only six hours before the last section of the 7·8 km bridge had been hoisted into position by the special floating crane Svanen to complete a fixed link between the two countries.

With less than a year to go before the July 1 2000 opening, the Øresund link already looks finished to passengers on the ferries plying the sound. At its western end the bridge slopes towards the 4 km long artificial island called Peberholm, where the railway and road drop down into an immersed tube tunnel under the Drogden channel to reach Danish soil.

During a visit in July this year preparations were in hand for the penultimate bridge girder to be placed on August 5. Each of the 57 girders is 140m long, 26m wide and 11m high and weighs around 6300 tonnes. Out on the bridge surfacing and other finishing works were proceeding furiously to ensure that the completion deadline is met.

There is no time to lose. Karl-Otto Sicking, Managing Director of Svedab, the Swedish mother company of the Øresund consortium, said that trial running and driver training with the first of a fleet of 27 three-car Øresund trains being built by Adtranz was due to start in January. By then, all track, signalling and telecoms equipment must be in place. Sufficient trains should be delivered and tested by the opening day to allow a 20min interval service between Malm?€? and København; this will later be extended to link Helsingør and Helsingborg every 15min.

Tracklaying on the bridge got under way last month, and then proceeded at 840m a day. Banverket's industrial division, in conjunction with Swedish Rail Systems, won the tracklaying contract for the bridge section. Although slab track is being used in the tunnel, that on the bridge will be ballasted throughout, including the 500m span high bridge which leaves 204m clear above the water for shipping to pass through the Flinte channel below.

The road deck has six lanes, and below it the double track rail deck is designed to accommodate 25 tonne axleloads. Two 2000 tonne freight trains can pass anywhere on the bridge. Rail is being supplied in 420m lengths by Inexa Profil.

  • CAPTION: Svedab Managing Director Karl-Otto Sicking (right) says the Øresund high bridge has the world's longest cable-stayed span for a combined main line rail and road bridge
  • CAPTION: Kastrup airport station is served by Danish IC3 DMUs and IR4 EMUs, soon to be joined by a fleet of 27 EMUs built specifically for Øresund services
  • CAPTION: Finishing work under way on the high bridge (left). Entrance to the rail deck of the low bridge at Lernacken on the Swedish shore (centre); laying ballast in the two track troughs requires lorries to reverse out on to the bridge for several kilometres. The rail deck (right) on the high bridge is being prepared for tracklaying; walkways at the side of each track lead to stairways every 650m, enabling rail passengers to reach the roadway in an emergency