Elbe Tunnel (1975)

Elbe Tunnel

South entrance of the Elbe Tunnel
Official name Elbtunnel
Carries 8 lines
Crosses Elbe
Locale Hamburg, Germany
Maintained by Federal Republic of Germany, Autobahnmeisterei
Total length 3,325 metres
Construction begin 1968
Construction end 1975
Opened 10.01.1975
Daily traffic 123.000

The New Elbe Tunnel (German: Neuer Elbtunnel), often simply called Elbe Tunnel in English (German: Elbtunnel) is the Elbe river crossing in northern Germany.



The Elbe Tunnel has a length of 3.1 kilometers (1.9 mi). As a part of the Bundesautobahn 7 in Hamburg, the tunnel forms a connection between Schleswig-Holstein (and on towards Denmark) to the north and Lower Saxony to the south. It has 8 lanes in 4 bores. The newest, fourth bore is the only one to feature a hard shoulder, minimizing congestion due to broken down vehicles.


The tunnel was constructed from 1968 to 1975 with three bores, containing a total of six autobahn lanes serving the city of Hamburg. On 10 January 1975 Chancellor of Germany Helmut Schmidt opened the Elbe Tunnel. The tunnel was constructed with a capacity for 65,000 cars daily.

View of the Port of Hamburg (to the south east)

In 1989 concrete tank barriers were constructed on the three south entrances. In war times these barriers would have been exploded out of their resting places. The barriers were removed in 2000 during construction of the 4th bore.


To meet the demands of increasing traffic, on 27 October 2002 a fourth bore was opened with two more lanes. It was drilled through the ground by the world's largest tunnel boring machine (TBM), the front plate of the machine being 14.65 m (48 ft 1 in) in diameter. The machine was named Trude, a short form of the name Gertrud, and an acronym for Tief runter unter die Elbe (deep down under the Elbe). The European Space Agency helped in engineering aspects of the tunnel project for the tunnel boring machine.

The centre bores carry reversible lanes which switch direction in anticipation of commuter flows, similar to those of Caldecott Tunnel in Oakland, California. So, for example, more lanes are available for the morning commute into the city center in the northward direction Flensburg, and more in the southbound direction of Hanover for traffic leaving the city in the evening.

Cutting shield used for the Elbe Tunnel

Height Control

The tunnel operation office controls traffic with 72 visual monitors. Traffic lights, highway barriers and variable message signs are in use to regulate 150,000 vehicles per day.

All bores are equipped with an automated height control at each entrance. As soon as a vehicle with a height of more than 4 meters enters the tunnel, the system will stop all traffic in that lane and direction of traffic. This will ensure that overheight trucks will not damage the tunnel. The tunnel fire brigade and tunnel police will then direct the truck out of the tunnel so that traffic can resume.


See also


  • Ulrich Alexis Christiansen: Hamburgs dunkle Welten. Der geheimnisvolle Untergrund der Hansestadt. Ch.Links Verlag, Berlin 2008, ISBN 3-8615-3473-8 (in German)

Coordinates: 53°32′12″N 9°55′48″E / 53.53667°N 9.93°E / 53.53667; 9.93

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