At the end of April 2021, Estonia’s Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure Taavi Aas and Finland’s Minister of Transport and Communications Timo Harakka signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on cooperation between the two countries in the transport sector. This is a good sign for the Helsinki-Tallinn tunnel initiative.
The purpose of the MoU to promote large-scale transport projects, such as the Helsinki-Tallinn tunnel, but also Rail Baltica, Trans-European Transport Networks, and North Sea–Baltic Sea core network corridor.
Why this kind of MoU was signed? There are four reasons:
- The states wanted to make clear, that as the tunnel will be a potential high security risk infrastructure, the participants will co-operate in the fields of security, safety and environment in order to ensure all possible measures and actions to prevent, reduce and control adverse impacts will be taken in due time.
- The tunnel project will be steered by the national authorities. However, there is also a possibility to work with private partners. In case private investment would be involved, this should be done in ways that secure the government’s full possibilities to control the development and operation of the tunnel connection.
- The tunnel will be connected to the states national transport system, e.g. Rail Baltica, Finnish railway or metro systems. This is also in line with Uusimaa regional council’s decision last autumn that the tunnel will be aligned through city of Helsinki, Pasila and Helsinki-Vantaa airport.
- The tunnel as well as all the other mentioned transport infrastructure projects are very expensive and risky. There is a possibility to reduce the risks by careful planning. Without this kind of commitment of the states, EU-funding for studies is very hard to get.
It was also said that a new working group consisting representatives of Estonian and Finnish governments as well as cities of Tallinn and Helsinki will be established to promote the tunnel. However, this memorandum is not a decision that tunnel or even the preliminary analysis will be made.
How is the tunnel-project going on?
First of all, there is no tunnel being built at the moment.
It has been estimated, that it would take in minimum five years to achieve permits for the construction. The tunnel project is very expensive and very risky, and before the permits could be granted, multiple detailed studies about transport infrastructure, geological conditions, funding, etc. are needed. Now it is time to start making these studies.
We can hope that this new working group will start organizing the preliminary studies about the tunnel and proceed in the planning. In best case, official decisions about the tunnel construction could be waited in the mid- 2020’s.
In February 2018, the FinEst Link project published the results of the feasibility study of the Helsinki-Tallinn railway tunnel. The results of the FinEst Link project state that a fast connection between Helsinki and Tallinn could bring major regional, national benefits and growth potential for Europe. The building and boring of the tunnel could start earliest in 2025 and be built in 15 years. This means the tunnel would be ready for passengers and cargo in 2040.
The investment cost of the railway tunnel has been estimated at 13–20 billion euros. The FinEst Link project uses a mean value of 16 billion euros. The amount includes, for instance, tunnel construction, two artificial islands, planning costs, stations, terminals and depots excluding however the costs for rolling stock.
Together Helsinki and Tallinn form an economic region of approximately 1,5 million inhabitants. The railway tunnel would help create a metropolitan twin-city region where people, goods and services could move around easily.
The Helsinki–Tallinn tunnel connection would cut the travel time between the two cities down to 30 minutes. The tunnel alignment would be 103 kilometers long which by the current standards would be the longest undersea railway tunnel in the world.
The FinEst Link project analysed the economic and technical feasibility of a railway tunnel for passenger and cargo traffic using a conventional rail operation concept but also asked for ideas from new technology developers. The project received several optional ideas and solutions.
Video about the results of FinEst Link project https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OmZsqMq5mXw
The press releases: