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St. Pauli-Elbtunnel

St. Pauli-Elbtunnel

Traffic under the Elbe Tunnel

In 1911, a half-kilometer-long pedestrian and car tunnel was dug connecting the center of Hamburg with the port across the Elbe River.

More than four thousand workers participated in its construction, albeit in dire circumstances. To avoid water ingress, compressed air was blown into the underground yard. Three workers lost their lives because of the pressure differences, and seventy-four were seriously injured.

After four years of digging, the technical sensation of the moment - the first substantial underwater tunnel on the European mainland, was festively opened on September 7, 1911.


Stairs and passenger elevators were installed on both sides of the Elbe, allowing dock workers, in particular, to descend twenty-four meters to cross the tunnel.

Anyone traveling with horse and cart, cars and smaller trucks, had to be hoisted down using one of the four vehicle elevators.

On the other side of the Elbe, elevators took the vehicles back to the ground floor, where they could leave the elevator building through wooden gates.


Both tunnel tubes have a diameter of six meters. In that limited space, a 1.9-meter-wide roadway is squeezed between two sidewalks.

Due to renovation works on the tunnels, car traffic has been temporarily banned since June 2019. Until then, about a hundred cars drove through the tunnel every day.

Although more than five vehicles were never allowed in the tunnel simultaneously, tolls had to be paid and there was supervision at the elevator doors. The old tunnel remains accessible day and night for cyclists and pedestrians.

In any case, the old Elbe tunnel had already lost its importance for car traffic. In 1975, a new tunnel opened three kilometers west of the St. Pauli-Elb tunnel, handling more than 140,000 vehicles daily. The St. Pauli-Elb Tunnel has been protected as a monument since 2003.

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