A group of consulting firms has been assembled to examine whether or not the much talked-about rail tunnel between the Finnish and Estonian capitals can be more than just a pipe dream, or if officials should instead seek to further develop marine links between both cities.
The proposed rail line would connect Finland with the Rail Baltic segment of the European Union's trans-European Transport Network strategy, which seeks to plug gaps in member states' transport networks. The Rail Baltic line runs from Tallinn to Riga, Kaunas and northeast Poland.
Some of the companies involved have been charged with drawing up cost-benefit analyses and impact assessments for both the rail and marine options. The five companies looking at this aspect of the project are Ramboll Finland, Sito, Strafica, Urban Research TA (Kaupunkitutkimus TA) and Pöyry Finland.
Three other firms – Sweco, WSP and the Swiss-based Amberg Engineering – will probe how the undersea tunnel can be technically implemented and try to determine the price tag for construction, maintenance and rail traffic. They will also sketch out the project’s main features, including location of routes, stations and rolling stock depots as well as safety.
Broad support for undersea rail link
If constructed, the tunnel would be 90 kilometres long and a one-way end-to-end trip would take passengers 30 minutes.
According to a poll conducted by daily Helsingin Sanomat, nearly half of residents in the capital region support the idea of a rail link to Tallinn. In January a travel agency from Ikaalinen near Tampere conducted a similar survey that showed two-thirds of respondents expressing a positive view of a Helsinki-Tallinn connection.
Record visitors at ports
Helsinki and Tallinn jointly represent an economic area populated by 1.5 million people. There is active inter-city movement of people for work and leisure as well as freight traffic.
Last year the port of Tallinn welcomed 10 million visitors. Helsinki ports also posted a similar record, as 11.5 million marine passengers passed through. Traffic between the two port cities in particular saw major growth last year and tens of thousands embark on work-related trips between the two cities weekly.
The EU-funded studies are expected to produce initial results this year.