Infrastructure: roads and rails


From footpath to motorway

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In 1867 Interior Minister Jacob Estrup gave responsibility for maintaining main roads and road services to the counties. The state had spent nearly a century building the 1,365 kilometres of main roads, but the emphasis had now shifted to the railway. Estrup earned the nickname the Railway Minister" and a number of MPs agreed that all long-distance traffic would soon go by train.

Railway fever
The rail network with stations, garages, semaphores and all the other technical equipment it included was built at breakneck pace in the 1860s and 1870s. The first railway ferry across the Little Belt went into service in 1871.

With new road and rail networks, Denmark in the 1800s had become a much smaller country in terms of travel time. A journey by mail coach from North Jutland to Copenhagen that before could take three days now took a day by rail. Railway fever broke out across the country in the 1890s, and the period saw a number of private railways built. But the era of the railway lasted only a few decades. Although the Danish State Railways, DSB, in 1930 introduced express trains and the S-train commuter lines in the Copenhagen area, railways were soon facing competition from cars.

Mass movement
The Traffic Finance Committee was established in 1955 with the aim of planning national transport infrastructure investments. In 1961, the committee recommended that more than half the money spent should be used to expand the road network over the next twenty years. Before the plan was made public, DSB's Director General protested that roads had been prioritised at the expense of other forms of transport.

From 1867 to the mid-1950s railways were the most important element of national transport policy. Now the time of mass motoring had come. Car sales tripled in the 1950s and then again in the 1960s.

Road construction was based on forecasts of increasing amounts of traffic. Over four decades, 800 kilometres of motorways, a new Little Belt Bridge, the Liim Fjord Tunnel, the Farø Bridges, the Great Belt Fixed Link and the Øresund Bridge were all built. The motorway network, nicknamed the big H, was to link Denmark from north to south and east to west. The motorway network was built between 1962 and 1994.

Oxcart roads
Throughout history, transportation technology has determined how we get from one place to the other.

In ancient times paths and tracks became the first roads when disc-wheeled oxcarts began trundling down them around 2500 BC. During the Stone and Bronze Ages, wet or swampy sections of road were kept passable by laying wicker or planks. In the Iron Age, some impassable roads were paved. In the Middle Ages there was a need for both military roads and travel routes. The best known ancient main thoroughfare is Hærvejen – the ancient Jutland trade road known also as the "Army Road" or "Cattle Road", which has actually followed different tracks through the ages. The road was the main route for the lucrative Jutland cattle drives to markets in Holstein and the Netherlands in the 16th and 17th centuries.

The shadow of prehistoric and Medieval roads can still be seen in the landscape. These sunken roads have been worn into the landscape and are most apparent on moors and in forests, for instance near Skjern. The Vikings developed a method to build the 700-meter bridge across Ravning Enge near Vejle. Stone bridges were built in the Middle Ages.

The first laws of the road were introduced with the 1793 Road Regulations, which also established who was responsible for upkeep and construction methods. Work building a modern main road network began in 1763, when three engineers from the French Corps des ponts et chausées (Corps of Bridges and Roads), the day's most advanced road builders, were hired. Engineer Jean Marmillod and his crews taught Danes to make roads of boulders, gravel and crushed rock, how to construct sturdy bridges and establish a system of milestones.