Tunnel vision: Polish seaport city’s islands to get vital connection

The mouth of the Świna river. The tunnel will connect the islands of Usedom (top) and Wolin (bottom). Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Specjal b

The coastal city of Świnoujście, located in the extreme north-west of Poland on the border with Germany, is to build a river tunnel to connect its two largest islands, the first permanent structure to do so within the city limits.

The tunnel between the city’s Usedom and Wolin islands will be completed by 2022, at a price of PLN 913 mln (EUR 209 mln). The European Commission has consented to cover almost PLN 776 mln (EUR 178 mln) of the cost.

“The EC’s consent to co-fund [an investment] is always needed when it involves more than EUR 50 mln, or in the case of transport infrastructure – EUR 75 mln,” said Jerzy Kwieciński, the Minister of Investment and Economic Development.

After the date of application for co-funding, the European Commission has three months to refuse or to ask additional questions. In the case of the Świnoujście tunnel, the three-month deadline was crossed this week.

“The EU money is a 100 percent surety,” Mr Kwieciński added.

The most important part of the investment will be the construction of a tunnel between the islands of Usedom and Wolin, which will allow drivers to cross beneath the Świna river.

The western part of the city, located on Usedom island, currently has no road connection with the rest of Poland, even though 80 percent of Świnoujście’s population and the city centre can be found there. On the other hand, on the eastern side of the Świna river is the city’s central railway station. Currently, the only way to move between the islands of Usedom and Wolin is via one of the two available ferry services.

Świnoujście and the port city of Szczecin further inland make up the second busiest port complex in Poland, after Gdańsk and Gdynia further to the east. At the most extreme north-western point in Poland, Świnoujście also represents the first possible port of call in Polish territory for marine traffic coming in from the west, and with the country’s largest liquid natural gas import terminal located in Świnoujście, the sheer amount of ships heading along the Świna river every day simply makes an over-land crossing between the Usedom and Wolin islands impossible.

In 2007, then Prime Minister Jarsław Kaczyński declared that it was necessary to build a tunnel connection in Świnoujście, however, following the victory of the opposition in the parliamentary elections, the investment was put on hold. It is only 10 years after Mr Kaczyński’s original declaration that the first phases of the investment are just now beginning.

The final length of the tunnel will be around 3.5km, 1,500m of which will be directly under the Świna riverbed.