EXPLAINED: Why has ‘green’ Denmark just agreed nine motorway projects?

EXPLAINED: Why has 'green' Denmark just agreed nine motorway projects?
A crowded motorway in western Funen. Photo: Tim Kildeborg Jensen/Ritzau Scanpix
Denmark's government on Monday struck a 160bn kroner (€22bn) infrastructure agreement with other parties, of which 64bn is going on new roads, and just 3bn on bicycle projects. What is going on?

What is the agreement the Danish government just struck? 

The political agreement on Denmark’s Infrastructure Plan 2035 sets out the big infrastructure projects for road, rail, tunnels, and more over the coming 14 years, and was agreed with all the parties in the Danish parliament. 

How many motorway projects do the parties envisage building by 2035? 

The plan includes at least nine motorway projects, with road projects as a whole costing 64bn, and the biggest, a new mid-Jutland motorway costing a hefty 5.8bn kroner. 

The mid-Jutland motorway will start just north of Bording in Central Jutland and end just north of Viborg. There will also be a stretch linking the towns of Give and Billund. 

There will also be a new motorway between Kalundborg in northwest Zealand to just south of Holbæk, while the Amager motorway, south of Copenhagen, will be expanded and extended to cope with the extra traffic expected from the Holmene, a new industrial area to be built on nine artificial islands south of the city. 

The plan also includes a motorway tunnel under Marselis Boulevard in Aarhus, and a new motorway bridge over the Limfjord via the island of Egholm, linking western Aalborg with the city’s airport. 

But isn’t Denmark supposed to have cut emissions by well over 70 percent by 2035? 

Yes, Denmark’s plan is to have cut emissions by 70 percent from 1990 levels by 2030. 

In a press conference announcing the agreement, Denmark’s finance minister Nicolai Wammen acknowledged that the infrastructure agreement would not do much to move Denmark towards its climate goals. 

“This agreement actually provides a small green dividend, even taken in isolation,” he said. “But there is no reason to hide the fact that this agreement is not what will get us to the goal of our climate challenge. That will come from all the other things we are going to do.” 

Although the Red-Green Alliance and Alternativet parties signed the agreement, in the text it reads that the Jutland motorway projects were included only because of the “strong desire” from the Liberal and Conservative parties, and said they were only backing the Randbøl Hede and Egtved Ådal sections. 

Henning Hyllested, the Red-Green Alliance’s transport spokesperson told TV2 that her party was against the motorway project. 

“We simply do not want to vote in favor of expanding the road network and especially the motorway network,” he said. “That is why we are not giving our name to those black highways that destroy our climate and roar through beautiful nature, and which do not solve the congestion problems it is claimed that they solve.” 

However, in the press release, the government claimed that the projects in the plan, taken together were CO2 neutral, in contrast to former infrastructure agreements. 

Is it all about road-building then? 

The agreement actually reserves slightly more money for public transport projects — 86bn kroner — than it does for road ones.

Some 13bn of this is money previously announced under the so-called Train Fund, a previous political agreement between the parties, however. And 1.9bn of this will go on two Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) projects, in which buses get their own dedicated express lanes. 

The most exciting new rail project is a new track from Silkeborg to Aarhus, which will cost 2.2bn kroner. 

The S-trains from Copenhagen will also be upgraded, with 1.3bn going towards providing next-generation S-trains for the link to Roskilde. 

What about tunnels? 

The agreement sets aside money to investigate a new bridge between the island of Funen and the Als peninsular east of Sønderborg in southern Jutland, potentially cutting the journey time from Copenhagen and Odense to northern Germany significantly. 

Is there anything ‘green’ about it at all? 

There will be half a billion kroner put towards improving electric car charging infrastructure. 

And nearly as much — 400m kroner — towards improving bicycle infrastructure.  

This means, among other things, that a new bicycle bridge will be built between Nordre Toldbod, just south of the Little Mermaid, and the trendy Refshaleøen peninsular. 


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