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Saturday, August 14, 1999 Published at 17:05 GMT 18:05 UK

World: Europe

Scandinavia's bridge of size

The final section of the bridge is brought into position

Sweden has been joined to Western Europe for the first time since the last Ice Age with the completion of one of the world's longest bridges.

The final section of the bridge was finally been put in place between Denmark and Sweden.

It is hoped that the 16 km (10 mile) road and rail link across the Oresund sound will boost trade in the region after it opens for normal traffic next year.

The BBC's Eleanor Montague: ''This is the culmination of years of planning and centuries of dreaming''
The $2bn bridge-tunnel, one of the largest infrastructure projects in European history, connects the Danish capital Copenhagen to the Swedish port of Malmo.

It means it will be possible to drive or travel by train from Sweden to Western Europe without having to use often time-consuming ferries.

Mid-air ballet

[ image: Royalty: The first two people to cross]
Royalty: The first two people to cross
Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden and Crown Prince Frederick of Denmark became the first people to walk from their countries to meet and greet each other.

The Oresund sound has separated the two nations since the last ice age.

Dancers wearing bridge-worker clothes performed a mid-air ballet on the massive crane which had lifted bridge sections into place, while a large flotilla of vessels sounded their foghorns to mark the event.

Artificial island

[ image: Decision to build the bridge taken in 1991]
Decision to build the bridge taken in 1991
The decision to build the bridge was taken in 1991, and construction began in 1995.

A consortium set up by the Swedish and Danish governments was set up to build and run the massive structure.

Since then, an artificial island has been built in the sound, a tunnel has been bored and the bridge itself has been built.

A BBC correspondent in Scandinavia says both countries hope the bridge will help create a new powerhouse of industry for the 3.5 million people in what is now to be called the Oresund region.

Airport expansion

Cars and trains starting in Malmo will cross on a 7.8 km (4.8 mile) two-level bridge and the 4 km (2.5 mile) artificial island in mid-strait, before diving into a 3.5 km (2.2 mile) underwater tunnel which emerges south of Copenhagen, near the city's international airport.

Hopes that the new link will boost trade have prompted an expansion of Copenhagen's airport and the building of a high-speed rail line between the airport and the city centre.

The toll on the four-lane highway link will be maximum of 230 kroner ($33) for a one-way crossing by car.

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