I recently made my first visits to Sweden and Denmark, being delighted to accept an invitation to attend the centuries old University of Lund in southern Sweden as a guest critic to the School of Architecture. Whilst I would undoubtedly have preferred to have been able to make the trip in summer; it was certainly cold, it was still a wonderful chance to see at first hand the coastal cities of Copenhagen and Malmo and to wander the streets of the historic university town of Lund.
The most striking feature of the region is the 8km Oresund Bridge, opened in July 2000 and linking Copenhagen to Malmo in southern Sweden. The bridge joins to a 4km underwater tunnel and together makes the longest rail / road crossing in Europe connecting the road and rail networks of the Scandinavian Peninsula with those of Central and Western Europe. A data cable also uses the bridge to carry all Internet data transmission for Finland.
Oresund Bridge compares to Hong Kong Link
It's fascinating to compare this infrastructure connection with that of the Hong Kong –Zhuhai - Macau Bridge (HKZM). The financing has come from a joint Danish / Swedish state owned company, with loans guaranteed by the government. Taxpayers have not funded the bridge other than the end connections and payback is anticipated at 30 years from toll fees received. The cost for the Oresund Connection, including motorway and railway connections on land, was US$5.7bn. It is estimated that the bridge has already made national economic gains of US$11bn on both sides of the strait by increased commuting and lower commuting expense, whilst this increases by roughly US$1bn each year.
The great similarity with the HKZM Bridge is the fact that an International Airport lies at one end of the Bridge. Kastrup station acts to serve air travelers for both Denmark and Sweden and the regular trains were packed with both air travelers as well as work commuters between the cities on all of my journeys. Additionally about 17,000 road vehicles use the bridge daily.
There are two big differences however with the HKZM Bridge. Firstly, it is not going to be a rail bridge, with the inherent convenience rail provides in linking people to downtown centres being lost. The focus is to be primarily on the movement of goods traffic by road, surely incredibly short sighted in the 21st Century.
Secondly, traveling between Sweden and Denmark requires no border control, meaning movements are swift and flexible. Lengthy customs and Immigration blockages will exist in both Hong Kong and Zhuhai/Macau.
Its no wonder that the tax payers of Hong Kong have had to foot the bill for HKZM Bridge as it is hard to imagine that passenger volumes will ever be sufficient to pay back the costs within a reasonable term. I remain convinced that not providing a road / rail link similar to Oresund will prove a huge mistake.
Copenhagen – City of Past and Future
There are no end of plaudits for the city of Copenhagen:- Annually rated top of international surveys for quality of life; a stable economy; outstanding education services; state of the art healthcare; safe, lively streets; plentiful green spaces and sparkling, clean air. It is recognized as one of the most environmentally friendly cities in the world, aiming to be carbon-neutral by 2025.
Commercial and residential buildings are required to reduce electricity consumption and renewable energy features such as solar panels are becoming increasingly common in the newest buildings in Copenhagen which must now be constructed according to Low Energy Class ratings and in 2020 near net-zero energy buildings.
With the death of shipbuilding as a major face of the economy, the city is now starting to reinvent itself and can realize the benefits from construction of the Oresund Bridge. The Western Harbour district, so long derelict, held the European Housing Expo in 2001 and is notable for its sustainable character.