The Hamburger Deckel

20140822 hamburger deckel #1

The Hamburger Deckel is an infrastructure improvement project on one of Germany’s busiest and longest motorways, the A7. The project is in direct response to the increasing traffic congestion and growing patronage along the motorway, which runs for 964km and linking Denmark in the north and Austria in the south.[1]

For decades this vital road link has been a major headache for the residents of Hamburg, Germany’s second largest city and Europe’s second largest port. Since its construction several decades ago, the 6 lane freeway has created a major physical barrier disconnecting the communities on either side. The residents of the Schnelsen, Stellingen and Bahrenfeld districts of Hamburg have endlessly expressed their concerns over the large levels of unwanted noise and air pollution generated by the heavy truck and car traffic along these sections of the freeway. Community pressure groups have been campaigning for over three decades, demanding that federal and local governments provide a solution to the noise and air pollution problems generated by the A7. These demands remained unanswered for a long time due to a lack of government funding.[2]

20140822 hamburger deckel #2

However, the A7 has developed into one of the worst bottlenecks in the country and has finally managed to attract the German government’s attention. The current flow of 152,000 vehicles per day is predicted to rise to as much as 165,000 by 2025 between the Bahrenfeld and Schnelsen sections of the motorway. The current and predicted vehicle flows will exceed the designed threshold by at least 26%, which has lead to the decision by the City of Hamburg and Federal Government to install an additional two lanes and a number of new slip roads to relieve this bottleneck.[3]

The City of Hamburg has decided to tackle this project of cross generational significance not only as an infrastructure and engineering problems, but also one that will eliminate the “wall of noise” and physical barrier stretching across the three districts of Hamburg.[4]

20140822 hamburger deckel #3

This primary design principle gave rise to the “Hamburger Deckel cut and cover” solution consisting of three new road tunnels through the districts of Schnelsen, Stellingen and Bahrenfeld, with a total combined length of 3.5km. The concrete and parkland canopy for the tunnels span on average 34m and have an average structural depth of 2 to 3 meters. Aimed at reconnecting the disconnected districts and stitching together the urban fabric, each tunnel deck is to support new extensive parklands, allotments of community gardens and parcels for new residential developments.[5]

20140822 hamburger deckel #4

The project is expected to cost around AUD$1 billion and take almost 10 years to complete, with the largest 2km section at Bahrenfeld to be completed last by approximately 2025.[6]

20140822 hamburger deckel #5

The first section of the project at Stellingen began construction in 2012. The standard cross section of this part of the tunnel is 22.5m wide and 893m long.[7]

20140822 hamburger deckel #6

The tunnel cover supports a surface of park, new residential development parcels and allotment gardens. A planning and design competition was conducted in 2010 with the winning design chosen to be implemented once the tunnel deck is completed.

The main design principle followed in this section of the Hamburger Deckel project was primarily to reconnect the communities on either side of the A7. This will be achieved by the establishment of a green corridor through the city. The tunnel deck will provide a new vast open space for leisure and recreation activities. This “cut and cover” solution aims to directly solve the noise and air pollution problems raised by the community by providing an effective physical noise barrier. It will also offset pollution generated by traffic exhaust through the establishment of new parklands and meadows.[8] The landscape designers also saw the tunnel deck as an opportunity to create a new tree lined town centre square where the community can hold festivals and markets, further facilitating the initial design idea of bridging the previously disconnected communities.

20140822 hamburger deckel #7

Following the same design principles, the 560m long tunnel deck at Schnelsen will create a spacious new park bordered by trees and flanked by small gardens. The idea of reconnecting communities is again addressed through the establishment of a new town centre and market space.

20140822 hamburger deckel #8

The residents of the district can also make use of the series of community garden allotments located to the north of the deck with a pedestrian and cycle connection running along the length of the freeway. Once again, cafés and public open spaces will be established where community activities such as markets and festivals can be held, turning the area into a new heart of the Schnelsen district.[9]

20140822 hamburger deckel #9

Extending along 2030 metres, reaching from the S-Bahn urban railway line all the way to Volkspark, the Bahrenfeld section of the tunnel will be the project’s longest covered motorway segment. The construction period will last approximately four years and the cost will be shared between Hamburg and the federal government.[10]

20140822 hamburger deckel #10

A new urban neighbourhood comprising approximately 1700 homes will be built in between the horse racing track and Schnackenburgallee with most of the existing allotment gardens transferred on top of the tunnel cover. Once again, this new urban landscape is primarily dedicated to the community’s leisure and recreation activities. The new tunnel deck will also provide a link into the existing parkland around the northern section of the tunnel and establish a green corridor through the city.[11]

The success of the “cut and cover” solution is that it not only provides an effective noise barrier to protect the community and mitigate the air pollution problems created by the A7, it also provides new opportunities for residential development which can contribute to the financing of the project.

The Hamburger Deckel project has been community driven from the outset. During the planning process the community was engaged at a number of stages, with regular workshops and public events held within the communities. These workshops were used as an opportunity to create a design brief for the landscape design competitions, ensuring the needs of the residents were incorporated into the design outcome. Throughout the planning process, consultants and planners were in close contact with the districts’ residents through public consultations and regular publications of design proposal documentation. This created a transparent planning process with regular community feedback.[12]

20140822 hamburger deckel #11

In terms of project financing, an infrastructure improvement scheme on a scale such as that proposed for the Hamburger Deckel was inevitably to be shared by the federal government. The only precondition for obtaining federal funding was that the German Federal Transport Infrastructure Plan classified the project as being urgent. This was established to be the case for the A7, with consideration given to the large amounts of community pressure to solve the traffic congestion and noise issues, as well as the issue of increasing vehicle patronage.[13]

First estimates put the City of Hamburg’s share at AUD$215 million in investment costs, plus AUD $24 million for planning. It was decided that the land owned by the City of Hamburg at the edge of the noise-reduced motorway was to be offered to private property developers. The sale of this land will contribute to the costs of the project and offset the financial burden on Hamburg. The total project cost is split between the City of Hamburg (17%) and the federal government (83%).[14]

20140822 hamburger deckel #12

The only negative response to the Hamburger Deckel so far has been the concerns of existing owners of garden allotments which will be forced to relocate during construction and then again to the tunnel roof once completed. Critics have also showed concern over possible loss of business productivity due to the long delays caused by construction activities. Similar fears are shared amongst road users which feel that the lengthy construction will cause major disruptions to an already strained vital roadway in Hamburg and Germany.[15]

20140822 hamburger deckel #13

This type of project procurement and community involvement is very interesting and an important case study for the Streets Without Cars agenda, as local community support and feedback will be essential in identifying what opportunities exist when we reimagine our local streets as spaces for pedestrians instead of cars.


  1. City of Hamburg, Freie und Hansestadt Hamburg; A7 Information Brochure.
  2. Ibid.; p. 18.
  3. Ibid.; p. 12.
  4. Ibid.; pp. 4-5.
  5. Mark Boyer; Hamburg is building a giant green roof cover over sections of the A7 MotorwayInhabitat; November 2011.
  6. Ibid.
  7. City of Hamburg, Freie und Hansestadt Hamburg; A7 Information Brochurepp. 6-7.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Ibid.; pp. 6-7.
  10. Ibid.; pp. 7-8.
  11. Ibid.
  12. Ibid.; pp. 18-19.
  13. Ibid.; pp. 16-17.
  14. Ibid.
  15. Simon Tomlinson; The underground motorway: Germans plan to cover one of Europe’s longest autobahns with a giant parkDaily Mail; December 2011.

Image sources

  1. A7 Motorway, image sourced from The City Fix.
  2. Issues with the A7, author’s own image.
  3. Hamburger Deckel, image sourced from The City Fix.
  4. Project overview, author’s own image.
  5. Project timeline, author’s own image. Maps sourced from the City of Hamburg: here and here.
  6. Project proposal, author’s own image. Renders sourced from the City of Hamburg: here, here and here; and Inhabitat.
  7. Stellingen design principles, author’s own image. Renders sourced from Inhabitat.
  8. Project images, sourced from the City of Hamburg: here, here, here and here.
  9. Schnelsen design principles, author’s own image. Renders sourced from the City of Hamburg.
  10. Bahrenfeld design principles, author’s own image. Renders sourced from the City Hamburg: here and here.
  11. Planning process, author’s own image.
  12. Project cost analysis, author’s own image.
  13. Community response, author’s own image.

The East-West Link

20140821 east west link #1

The East-West Link, if given the go ahead will be one of the largest infrastructure projects to be ever constructed in Melbourne. Over the years a lot of work has been completed to understand the benefits of the project and needs of Melbournians. This has taken the form of feasibility studies, early planning investigations and business case development. [1]

20140821 east west link #2

The East-West Link was conceived following a study by Rod Eddington in 2008 into Melbourne’s future east-west travel needs. The report provided a number of recommendations, including new rail tunnels, public transport improvement plans and the East West link as a duplication of the West Gate bridge. According to the study, as the demand for travel increases, fast and reliable connections around the city will become more and more important for businesses and the future prosperity of Melbourne.[2]

According to studies undertaken by the Linking Melbourne Authority (LMA), the demand for the East-West Link is driven by the need to enhance connectivity to critical destinations, including the Port of Melbourne and Melbourne International Airport. In order to accommodate rapidly growing freight movement, nationally significant industrial precincts in the south-east and the east must be linked with both the port and interstate supply chain corridors in the north and west of Melbourne.[3] The LMA study attempts to show that improving the travel choice for businesses and individuals accessing goods, services, education and employment through the new east-west link will maximise Victoria’s competitive advantage, even though a comprehensive business case is yet to be published.

20140821 east west link #3

The study concentrates on evidence that Melbourne’s congestion and road network unreliability are getting worse. The annual cost of congestion is estimated to grow to $5 billion by 2021 and to $7.2 billion by 2031, more than double current levels. The East-West Link is intended to provide a long term alternative to the congested West Gate bridge and address growth forecasts in population, freight and traffic.[4]

The project has been surrounded by controversy, in particular related to its very short design development and feasibility study period, which it seems has been fast-tracked by state and federal government for political motivations. The published project timeline by the LMA shown below suggests that the $8 billion Stage 1 of the East-West Link is to go ahead with just over a year of project planning.

20140821 east west link #4

The controversy has been stoked by industry reports showing that the previously considered $1.5 billion assistance for the Metro Rail Tunnel would have been a better use of public funds, with a capacity to shift the passenger equivalent of 24 lanes of freeway. Further reports by Infrastructure Australia, such as Spend more, waste more, argue that the existing level of road expenditure is unsustainable and unjustified.[5]

As yet, there has been no East-West Link business case published by the state government. Writing in The Age, Senior Columnist Kenneth Davidson has suggested that this may in part be because it relies on increasing car dependence at the expense of public transport. The East-West Link ties into Planning Minister Matthew Guy’s Plan Melbourne, which envisages a growth in Melbourne’s population by 2020 of an extra 1.3 million people, almost all of whom will be housed in dwellings with one or two cars. Davidson suggests that “if the East-West Link goes ahead there will be no money for public transport for at least a generation, irrespective of political promises.”[6]

Despite the strong criticism of the project, the current design for Stage 1 has been given the green light by the Naphtine government. The design for Stage 1 consists of :

  • Twin 4.4km long, three lane tunnels connecting Eastern Freeway to Royal Park
  • Tunnel portal west of Hoddle Street
  • Tunnel portal in Royal Park
  • Elevated roadways linking the tunnel to the City Link Tollway
  • Eastern Freeway widening at the junction of Hoddle Street and Tram Road
  • Upgrades to Hoddle Street in both north and south directions
  • City Link connection to M1, M80 Freeways
  • Connections to Port of Melbourne and Melbourne International Airport

20140821 east west link #5

The proposed tunnels are to be three lanes in each direction and will carry commercial and private vehicles. As part of the contract signing with the winning construction and maintenance consortium, the tunnel route and detailed design will be finalised and influenced by geological conditions along the route. The tunnels are likely to use a combination of construction methods because of different ground conditions and design requirements.[7]

Some of the major issues raised with the current design proposal are the flyover connections to the City Link Tollway, which will effected the Ross Straw Field part of Royal Park, substantially compromise the adjacent wetlands, compromise the visual amenity of surrounding suburbs and significantly encroach on the Arden Street and Macaulay Road precincts.

In terms of project financing, Stage 1 of the East-West Link is being procured as an Availability Public Private Partnership (PPP), with the state government initially retaining tolling and traffic risk. Under the PPP model, the private sector designs, constructs, finances, operates and maintains the road to specified standards in exchange for availability payments over the term of the concession period. A competitive tender process commenced in late 2013 with a successful project proponent expected to be determined by late 2014.[8] The Victorian State Government has contributed $294 million towards project procurement costs, with the Federal Government pledging an additional $1.5 billion towards Stage 1 Costs. The Federal Government has also recently announced an additional $1.5 billion towards the future costs of Stage 2.[9]

20140821 east west link #6

Major criticisms of the project have come from community action groups such as the BetterEWL residential action group. In collaboration with architecture studio Atelier Red+ Black, they argue that the LMA did not undertake appropriate community consultation, a specific directive of the Planning Minister’s scoping directions for the project. The LMA instead developed a reference design that would have what it termed acceptable outcomes. To achieve the intent of the scoping directions, the LMA puts the onus on the tenderers, which according to BetterEWL is outside the statutory approval process.[10] The BetterEWL team has also commented on the LMA’s lack of consideration for design alternatives as part of the statutory approval process. This and other public groups feel that the LMA should be required to go back and conduct a thorough investigation of the alternative designs presented.

20140821 east west link #7

The decision to build the first stage of the East-West Link has also been criticised as a misuse of public funds that could be better spent on public transport. This has been particularly highlighted by the City of Yarra-sponsered action group, Trains Not Toll Roads. Polls indicate that the Melbourne Metro Rail project is the preferred infrastructure option and is viewed as the infrastructure project of highest priority. The support of this group by the City of Yarra is particularly interesting for the Streets Without Cars agenda, as the design proposals will be looking at transforming and reimagining streets strategically selected throughout the municipality.

Further information on alternative designs proposals for the East-West Link’s controversial interchange and link to the City Link Tollway, visit the BetterEWL Alternative 1 and Alternative 2 information pages.

20140821 east west link #8

20140821 east west link #9


  1. East-West Link: Project overviewLinking Melbourne Authority.
  2. Rod Eddington; Investing in Transport overviewDepartment of Transport; 2008; p.5.
  3. East-West Link: Project benefitsLinking Melbourne Authority.
  4. East-West Link Stage 1 Short Form Business CaseLinking Melbourne Authority.
  5. Spend More, Waste More: Australia’s roads in 2014Infrastructure Australia; 2014.
  6. Kenneth Davidson; East-West Link: The case against this road gets ever strongerThe Age; 28th July 2014.
  7. Tunnel Fact SheetLinking Melbourne Authority.
  8. East-West Link Stage 1 Short Form Business CaseLinking Melbourne Authority.
  9. Jason Dowling; Victoria gets federal budget funding for East-West Link but not airport railThe Age; 14th May 2014.
  10. Design alternatives, BetterEWL.

Image sources

  1. East-West Link Stage 1, copyright Linking Melbourne Authority; screen grab at 0:15 seconds.
  2. Project overview, author’s own image.
  3. Why the East-West Link, author’s own image.
  4. Timeline overview, author’s own image.
  5. Tunnel cross section, copyright Linking Melbourne Authority.
  6. Financing overview, author’s own image.
  7. Project criticism, author’s own image.
  8. A better alternative for Arden Macaulay, copyright Atelier Red + Black.
  9. A better alternative for Parkville, copyright Atelier Red + Black.