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Transport ministry denies public alternative to private Tallinn tunnel plan

Estonian minister cites "environmental, economic and safety" concerns with the Finest Bay Area Development's proposal.

An illustration of the FinEst Bay Area Development project led by Peter Vesterbacka. Image: FinEst Bay Area Helsinki

Entrepreneur Peter Vesterbacka’s plans to build a tunnel from Helsinki to Tallinn with private and Chinese investment has been making headlines with the Estonian government stating that it is set to reject the plan in favour of a bilateral, publicly-funded project. The matter was first reported in financial newspaper Taloussanomat (siirryt toiseen palveluun) (in Finnish).

There's one snag: there is currently no such project, according to Finland's transport ministry.

"There is currently no publicly funded project in progress," Sabina Lindström, Director General at the Finnish Ministry of Transport and Communications, told Yle.

She then added that the Estonian Minister was most likely referring to a feasibility study conducted a couple of years ago.

The study conducted by the Finnish and Estonian Ministries of Transport, the Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency, the cities of Helsinki and Tallinn and the Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional Council concluded that the tunnel project is interesting but not important enough to start building now.

"Since then, the authorities have not made any progress," Lindström said.

According to her, there is no project in Finland competing with Peter Vesterbacka tunnel company Finest Bay Area Development's project.

"The current Finnish government has not issued a policy on the tunnel project, Lindström stated.

Estonian minister questions feasibility of private project

In an interview with the Tallinn-based economic newspaper Ärileht, Estonian Minister of Public Administration Jaak Aab had said that he intends to propose that the country's government do not proceed with the Vesterbacka project.

Aab added that a number of shortcomings had been identified in Vesterbacka’s plans, including questions over whether the passenger and cargo volumes presented in the application are realistic.

"For environmental, economic and safety reasons, there are doubts about the feasibility of this project," Aab told Ärileht.

Instead, Aab had said he will put his support behind another tunnel project backed by both the Estonian and Finnish public authorities, which a 2018 feasibility study found would cost in the region of 16 billion euros.

"Creating a cross-border connection is only possible through a joint project between the two countries and the common will of both countries," Aab said. "In the name of the development of the region and good transport connections, however, the railway tunnel project between Estonia and Finland deserves further evaluation, as it would benefit the whole of Estonia."

The goal of that plan is to link up with Rail Baltica, an EU-funded project linking the three Baltic countries and Poland with a high-speed rail connection.