Leipzig (dpa) - One of the largest infrastructure projects in Europe is being scrutinized by the Federal Administrative Court.

Since Tuesday, the Leipzig judges have been negotiating the first of a total of seven lawsuits against the German-Danish billion dollar project of a Baltic Sea tunnel in the Fehmarnbelt between Germany and Denmark.

At the start of the hearing on lawsuits from two environmental associations and several ferry companies, the main focus was on negotiation issues.

The 9th Senate has scheduled up to seven days of hearing for the first complaints.

"We have a wealth of questions to discuss here," said the presiding judge, Wolfgang Bier.

Numerous experts should be heard about the environmental impacts and traffic forecasts.

He will try to address the various points as briefly as possible.

«I appeal to everyone to do the same.

Otherwise we won't finish here forever. "

The court expressed concerns about the admissibility of the legal action brought by AB Nordö-Link.

The company operates a ferry connection between Travemünde and Malmö, some distance from the planned tunnel.

The question is to what extent the rights of the shipping company are violated by the project.

Certainly there are “indirect effects”, but there must be a limit to who is entitled to sue.

"We are concerned that the limit has been adhered to here," said Bier.

Because of the pandemic, the Senate is not negotiating in the historic courthouse, but in the congress hall in Leipzig.

This was the only way to accommodate the 160 participants and the spectators in accordance with the hygiene requirements.

Before the start, environmentalists protested against the controversial tunnel construction on Tuesday morning.

The alliance Beltretter called on banners to stop the project.

The 18 kilometer long Baltic Sea tunnel is to connect Puttgarden on Fehmarn and Rødby on Lolland.

Both cars and trains are supposed to pass through the tunnel on the sea floor, which would shorten travel times and distances considerably.

The tunnel would be built and operated by Denmark.

The Danish project company Femern A / S put the cost of the controversial construction at 7.1 billion euros - based on the 2016 price level. Building permits for the tunnel section in Denmark have been in place since 2015.

Germany only bears the costs for the expansion of the hinterland connection and the replacement of the Fehmarnsund Bridge, which connects Schleswig-Holstein's mainland with the Baltic Sea island.

Deutsche Bahn puts the costs at 3.5 billion euros - including a 1.1 billion risk buffer.

The nature conservation association Nabu and the action alliance against a fixed Fehmarnbelt link see serious effects on the Fehmarnbelt marine reserve and neighboring bird sanctuaries.

In addition, they fundamentally doubt the transport requirements of the billion-euro project.

The ferry companies fear the loss of jobs.

Nabu has collected almost 100,000 signatures against what it sees as an oversized project.

© dpa-infocom, dpa: 200922-99-663072 / 2

Appointment announcement by the court

State treaty between Germany and Denmark on the Fehmarnbelt crossing

Project overview Deutsche Bahn