Elbe Tunnel (1911)

The Opened in 1911, St. Pauli Elbe Tunnel - in contrast to the since 1975 existing New Elbe Tunnel also called the Old Elbe Tunnel - crosses under the Norderelbe on a length of 426.5 meters and connects with two tunnel tubes the northern harbor edge at the St. Pauli Landing Bridges ( Nordeingang53 .5459277777789.9666361111111 ) with the Elbinsel Steinwerder ( Südeingang53.541859.9665555555556 ). It is used as a public transport route for both pedestrians and cyclists as well as limited by motor vehicles. He was in his opening as a technical sensation, since 2003, is a listed building and was awarded on September 7, 2011 by the Federal Chamber of Engineers and the Hamburg Chamber of Engineers, entitled Historical landmarks of civil engineering in Germany. The honorary plaque was placed at the northern entrance (St. Pauli ).

  • 2.1 Conversions and refurbishment
  • 2.2 Use numbers and user charges

History and Architecture


To get the increasing traffic on the river Elbe in the handle, was thinking about a permanent technical solution for the Elbe crossing since the late 19th century. Background was the tremendous growth of the Port of Hamburg and its associated relocation on the city opposite side of the river. It was hoped that it less obstruction of waterways crisscrossing the harbor ferries and improved access to the large shipyards on Steinwerder as Blohm & Voss AG Vulcan and the Reiherstieg shipyard as well as the hubs of the newly created port basin in the area of the free port. The existing ferry services since 1888 HADAG could not cope with the pressure developed during shift change of the working stream. In total there were 1895 in the Port of Hamburg shipyard employed 20,000 and 25,000 longshoremen. Added to this was that many of the ferries could not afford to, or the operation due to weather conditions, for example in winter with snow and ice, was limited.

The technical solutions were initially also a movable bridge or a transporter bridge in the discussion. Both solutions have hindered the passing ships and were therefore discarded. A solution also examined by means of high-level bridge would have had to have a clear height of 55 meters and would thus become very expensive. Since at that time already had English and American models, which demonstrated the basic technical feasibility of a river crossing under, also a tunnel was included in the considerations. Finally, a decision was taken in 1901, and designed a building officer Ludwig Wendemuth Elbe. The tube was designed with a width of 4.7 meters and a minimum height of 4.7 meters also for a middle road of 1.82 meters in width (which is the former track width of horse-drawn vehicles corresponded ) and two elevated walkways of 1.44 meters width both sides. So the pedestrian traffic in both directions could run undisturbed; the only roadway would have to be used alternately.

1904 resulted in the Senate bill for tunneling two parallel tubes, each 4.8 meters in diameter.


In the under the direction of Otto Stockhausen 1907 started construction compressed air was used to avoid using the overpressure generated in this way the penetration of water. Due to the different soil conditions, two different construction methods had to be applied. The vertical excavation on the Steinwerder page was done using an iron caisson. On the St. Pauli side ring was dug, which was filled with concrete. Then, the core was excavated and completed the bay. The two horizontal tunnels were built in shield tunneling method, they lead to a total depth of 24 meters from the St. Pauli Landing Bridges to Steinwerder on the south bank of the North Elbe. The upper edge of the six -meter-high tubes is twelve meters below the former mean high tide. Between tunnel and the riverbed was a three -meter-thick layer of silt.

When building under positive pressure three workers came through the bends were killed and two others died in accidents. In total, about 4400 workers were employed. The work caused construction costs of 10.7 million gold marks.


The tunnel was opened on September 7, 1911 for pedestrian traffic and in November 1911 for horse-drawn vehicles and motor vehicles. The press commented:

  • " Talking in a loud voice, as modern technology on land, on water and under the water, the approach superseding them tasks overcomes " (Hamburger Fremdenblatt, May 21, 1911)
  • " Its a mausoleum not dissimilar shape is well suited when spectator who does not realize the purpose of a brooding over its determination to awaken " ( German Bauhütte, 1911)
  • " As a flooded by the light and form a Merry powers of the modern taste time thinking which, although completely rises in the purposes for its realization but nothing has been omitted, which contributes, for this purpose to combine the beauty " ( Hamburg news, July 13, 1911 ).

Design and features

For the tunnel no access ramps were applied. The vehicles are instead with lifts - four bays, each with one car each side of the river - carried. The mean elevators have a capacity of ten tons (10,000 kilograms) and have a working length of about 9.5 meters. They are longer than the two outer lifts of six tons and a length of about 7.3 meters. About the two shafts resembling in dimensions buildings were designed by the architect Altona Community Raabe & Wöhlecke built - on the St. Pauli side of tufa, on the Steinwerder page of brick - with copper -studded domes. There, the drives are housed for the cars. The south entrance to Steinwerder was partially destroyed during the air raids on Hamburg and the dome has been replaced in the reconstruction by a nondescript flat roof. The surviving dome of the north gate was renovated in 2008.

On the tiled walls of the tunnels small stoneware reliefs are inserted at regular spacing. On them the same overlying is presented thematically. These include pictures of fish, crabs, mussels, but also of rats and discarded objects.

Use history and conversions

Alterations and refurbishment

The tunnel was initially for pedestrian accessible via fixed stairs and two elevators that led to the depth in the bay buildings. As part of a modernization in 1959 the then longest unsupported escalator in Germany were in addition to these stairs retrofitted. After the escalators in 1991 were worn out, no longer met the requirements of the TUV and a conversion for cost reasons did not appear feasible, these were removed in 1993 and replaced instead on each side by an additional lift. In addition, we renewed the existing passenger lift.

With the deepening of the Elbe 1981/82, the overlap of the tunnel was reduced to one meter. During this work, parts of the tunnel were separated by a reinforced concrete wall from the rest of the tunnel system. To protect against damage from floating and a reinforced concrete structure was placed on the tunnel, causing the water depth to 10.6 meters based on the old SKN (mean Leaplow water) could be increased.

In 1994 began a complete renovation, the aim is to restore the appearance of 1911 and the installation of modern technology, including new passenger lifts and modern flood gates. The cost was so far about 15 million euros.

After the renovation of the building on the shaft Steinwerder side and the almost complete repair of shaft building on St. Pauli side since August 2010, the two tunnels of the 100 year old Grade II listed building on the series. The Hamburg Port Authority invested a double -digit million euro amount in the renewal and thus in the preservation of the old Elbe tunnel. During the entire construction a tube remains open. For car travel of the Sierichstraße was from October 5, 2009, a street direction control, similarly furnished. That is, from 5.30 bis 13 clock there is one way traffic from the St. Pauli Landing Bridges to Steinwerder, 13-20 clock the traffic from the port flows back into the city. Cyclists have to adapt during this period the flow of traffic or push the wheel in the opposite direction. The completion of the first tube was planned in September 2011 to mark the 100th birthday of the tunnel, right after the second should be tackled. Early 2013 gave the Hamburg Port Authority announced that the rehabilitation needs is much higher than expected and the construction will significantly increase. The completion of the first tube is now planned for 2016, the second will follow in 2019.

In March 2014, the voraussichtzlichen cost of the renovation was estimated at about 100 million euros (1994 was the competent port authority still 15-17 million euros expected ).

Use numbers and user charges

Since the opening of the tunnel passed under a year twenty million people the same. Most used the tunnel to reach the jobs in port and at the shipyards. With the automation of general cargo by container yard and the dying in the 1970s and 1980s, the tunnel, the first lost its importance. Less than 500,000 pedestrians each year took advantage of him. Due to the tourist development and the growing range of leisure facilities in the south-facing port area, the numbers rose again. In 2008, about 300,000 motor vehicles, cyclists and 63,000 pedestrians were counted 700,000.

Even today, the Old Elbe tunnel for pedestrians and cyclists is free and unlimited in time to walk ( with the exception of New Year's Eve 9:00 p.m. to 4:00 ), the use of motor vehicles ( motorcycles, passenger cars, small trucks) is chargeable and fixed opening times limited.

About free use for pedestrians, there were in 1906 a heated debate among the citizenry. From the Social Democrats argued dialectically pointedly: "Because the bourgeoisie for the maintenance of bridleways paid on the Uhlenhorst no charges tunnel use for workers must be free. " The Elbe formed next to the harbor ferries, the only way to get to work in the port. Thus, the use of pedestrians remained free. The underground Elbe crossing cost at the opening of 1911 for cabs, cars, empty trucks, run horses and donkeys 50 Pfennig (equivalent to 2.70 euros today ). Loaded trucks and company cars had to pay a weight-based fee (up to four tons: a Mark / to six tons: two marks / to ten tons: four marks ). For dogs to be brought the holder had to pay a fee of ten cents.

Port Economic impact

With the globalization of world trade larger ships are being built (especially container ships). The number of large and very large ships has increased significantly. These have a large depth (up to 15 m) and therefore can no longer start the situated above the Old Elbe Tunnel harbor. In this harbor was made to the commissioning of container terminals, a large part of the port handling. Because of the Old Elbe Tunnel especially the Walter Hofer ports were developed. The volume of traffic has shifted clearly visible in these port areas; there takes place a lot of movement of goods from sea to land transport and vice versa.

As the big cruise ships have less than ten meters draft, they can start on the old Elbe tunnel across the cruise terminal in the harbor beach, where there were the passenger halls of the Hamburg -America Line by the end of the 1930s.

Regular events

Since 2000 will be held on the last Sunday in January, the Elbe Tunnel Marathon, in which the two tunnels will pass through a total of 48 times.