1.         Upper Middle Rhine Valley (Germany) (C 1066)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  2002

Criteria  (ii)(iv)(v)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger  N/A

Previous Committee Decisions  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1066/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 0
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1066/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds


Previous monitoring missions

February 2008: Joint World Heritage Centre / ICOMOS advisory mission

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

a) Noise pollution and traffic increase

b) Potential impacts by Rhine crossing project

Illustrative material  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1066/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2009

At its 32nd session, (Quebec City, 2008), the Committee considered the recommendations of a World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS advisory mission which investigated the impact on Outstanding Universal Value of proposals being considered by the State Party for a crossing of the river in the Upper Middle Rhine valley area. The mission looked at the two projects under consideration: the “Wellmich-Fellen low bridge” and a tunnel that would link the B274 road to the east with the L208 road to the west, between the localities of St Goar and St Goarshausen.

The World Heritage Committee requested the State Party to carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment of the Rhine crossing options, as well as to prepare an additional transport plan to evaluate in a more detailed manner the feasibility of possible construction and traffic management, whilst respecting the Outstanding Universal Value of the property.


The State Party has submitted the following new documents:

- Summary in English of an environmental impact assessment. A copy of the full German text has been requested but at the time of the preparation of this document has not been received.

- Covering letter which provides information on a European wide tendering process for the design of the bridge which should be concluded by end of April 2009;

- Letter giving a response to a petition by the “Bürgerinitiative im Mittelrheintal” campaigning against environmental damage by the railways;

- Supplementary traffic study for two low bridges, a high bridge, and a tunnel.


No information was provided on commercial rail traffic, a mid-term rail plan or on overall sound levels.

The State Party submitted an interim report dated 28 January 2009 on the state of conservation of the World Heritage property informing about the plans for a fixed structure crossing the Middle Rhine Valley between St. Goar and St. Goarshausen. It noted that an Environmental Impact Study had been commissioned from the engineering consultancy Cochet Consult and that the full study would be submitted later. It also informed that an extensive traffic study had being undertaken which was received by the World Heritage Centre on 3 March 2009 and that an EU-wide design competition had been launched.


On 3 March 2009, the Centre received, electronically, a letter dated 3 March 2009 from the State Party, transmitting the same information that was already submitted to the UNESCO World Heritage Centre in August 2007 (“Structures Crossing the Rhine in the Middle Rhine Valley”), and a summary of the results of the Environmental Impact Study (dated February 2009).

The State Party explained that stabilising the population trend in the Middle Rhine Valley and creating an economic incentive to improve the declining economy in this area, including in terms of new jobs creation, requires transport conditions and infrastructure to be upgraded. It noted that the ferry, with its limited capacity, would not satisfy current and future demands for a modern transport connection. It is of the opinion that this could be achieved with a fixed structure crossing the Rhine.

With the exception of the negative effects in the side valleys foreseen for the tunnel portals, a tunnel solution above high water levels was said to entail the least negative visual impact. However, the tunnel option has particular drawbacks in terms of processing the volumes of earth excavated, the local pollution situation at the tunnel portals, and the issues related to pedestrian traffic, and in particular cyclists.

It noted that the bridge options included in the study involve varying degrees of changes to the landscape setting and the natural environment, with clear differences among the options studied. Whereas the central low bridge and high bridge option entail the danger of substantial negative effects on the landscape, based on the location, given topography and existing transport infrastructure, embankments and buildings, the low bridge outside the town may be the preferable location for a fixed crossing over the Rhine, in terms of lesser impacts.


On 18 March 2009, the Centre received, electronically, a letter dated 16 March 2009 from the State Party, transmitting the summary of the results of a supplementary traffic study “Structures crossing the Rhine in the World Heritage site Middle Rhine Valley”. In the additional traffic study, special traffic considerations were analysed with respect to the construction of a new fixed structure crossing the Rhine in the World Heritage property. The study updated the base data from 2000, making a traffic forecast to 2025; extending the area for development to the side valleys; evaluating traffic impact on the towns of St. Goar and St. Goarshausen; assessing the development of lorry and commercial traffic; measuring the impact on bicycle transport, and differentiating by local development, regional, and interregional traffic.

The four options considered for a fixed structure crossing the Rhine were: (1) The ’low bridge’ (2) The ’high bridge’ (3) The ’tunnel’ and (4) The ‘low bridge outside town’ and these were compared to a zero option without a fixed structure.

As a result of the traffic model calculations, the new traffic forecast would be as follows: 'Low bridge' option - 2,400 vehicles/day; 'High bridge' option -1,700 vehicles/day; 'Tunnel' option - 1,900 vehicles/day; and 'Low bridge outside town' option-1,200 vehicles/day.

The authorities consider that the 'low bridge outside town' option is a reasonable alternative, even if it has a rather “circuitous route” because of its location in the road network. To minimise the disadvantages, this option would need further planning, especially the connections to the existing road network.

On 12 May 2009, the Centre received a letter dated 6 May 2009 from the State Party setting out the results of the architectural competition for the bridge over the River Rhine: the first prize was awarded to Heneghan Peng Architects/Arup Consulting Engineers/Mitchell and Associates. According to the letter, the proposed structure of the winning entry would only minimally intrude on the landscape.

All documents were transmitted to ICOMOS for review and comments.

ICOMOS has considered the summary version of the environmental impact assessment. It considers that the environmental impact assessment should assess the potential impact of the proposed river crossings on the Outstanding Universal Value of the World Heritage site. In order to achieve this, it is necessary to define as a starting point the scope of the investigation in terms of the ‘asset’ and the way impact on the asset will be evaluated. The asset should be a list of the attributes that reflect Outstanding Universal Value. In the documents submitted, no inventory of cultural attributes has been drawn up: all that are detailed are the criteria under which the property was inscribed and short descriptions of the landscape in the area of the proposed crossings. The evaluation of the functional and sensory impact of the proposed crossings on the property (such as increases in traffic on two centres and the impact of the bridges on the landscape) is insufficient. The study shows the impact on the ‘natural’ landscape from individual viewpoints by using photo montages. However, neither the criteria for the selection of views nor the number of viewpoints are methodologically justified. The perception of the Middle Rhine landscape does not take place from a few fixed viewpoints; rather it is a sequence of constantly changing spatial impressions and view axes, which differ considerably depending on the traffic route and the means of locomotion (by boat, train, car, or as cyclist or pedestrian).

ICOMOS also notes that a cultural landscape is more than natural scenery and impact needs to consider the full range of attributes of the cultural landscape – not just visual parameters. The Upper Middle Rhine Valley is of outstanding importance as a Romantic landscape, which inspired writers, painters and musicians and particularly in the 19th century was visited by countless travellers from all over Europe. Especially the central stretch of the transverse valley in the area of St Goar and St Goarshausen fulfils the idea of the picturesque and romantic Rhine valley. The nearby Loreley rock is the most important place of Rhine mythology. No attempt has been made to compile an inventory of historic views relevant for an evaluation of the consequences of a Rhine bridge for the associative dimension of the cultural landscape.

The present study has little detailed assessment and description of the existing traffic infrastructure in the Upper Middle Rhine Valley or of its development over time. The studies appear to disregard the fact that the roads on the left side of the Rhine leading to motorway A 61 are narrow and not sufficient for increased traffic, especially for trucks, without road widening.  The planned fix crossing would interfere severely with the traditional traffic network and threatens the continued existence of the old-established Rhine ferries, which are an essential part of the historic traffic structure of the property.

Furthermore, according to the latest plans, as a consequence of the competition for the bridge, the position of the proposed crossing has been moved further north from Fellen / Wellmich to an area with important nature reserves, an aspect that was not critically questioned in the present assessment.

ICOMOS considers that the summary Environmental Impact Assessment has not demonstrated a fair and rational assessment of the impact of the proposed bridges on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property

The World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS regret that a full version of the impact study carried out by Cochet Consult has not been submitted for scrutiny. The shortened version does not set out a robust methodology for assessing the impact of the proposed bridge on the attributes of the cultural landscape that contribute to its Outstanding Universal Value, and fails to adequately quantify the limitations of the current road network and thus the impact of increased traffic on its infrastructure. 

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM


Decision Adopted: 33 COM 7B.104

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-09/33.COM/7B.Add,

2. Recalling Decision 32 COM 7B.93, adopted at its 32nd session (Quebec City, 2008),

3. Notes the summary version of the Environmental Impact Study of the Rhine crossing options and the traffic analysis provided by the State Party and that an architectural competition has taken place for the proposed bridge;

4. Regrets that the full version of the Environmental Impact Study was not submitted on time;

5. Considers that the summary version of the Environmental Impact Study fails to set out an adequate methodology to interrogate the impact of the proposed bridge on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property;

6. Further requests the State Party in consultation with the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies to develop a draft Statement of Outstanding Universal Value for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 34th session in 2010;

7. In order that the recommendations of the 2008 World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS advisory mission be fully considered in terms of the potential impacts of a proposed crossing on the Outstanding Universal Value and integrity of the property, including on important views, requests ICOMOS to consider the complete Environmental Impact Study to allow for a full assessment of the proposed bridge, tunnel and other solutions on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property, and defer any further action until these alternatives have been evaluated;

8. Further requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre by 1 February 2010 a report on progress in the decision making on the Rhine crossing for review by the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 34th session in 2010.