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Helsinki-Tallinn tunnel ready by end 2024, says ex-Angry Birds boss

Taking a train between Finland and Estonia will be possible by Christmas 2024, says the entrepreneur behind one of two massive tunnel projects being planned.

Peter Vesterbacka med spade i handen.
Peter Vesterbacka of the FinEst Bay Area Helsinki-Tallinn tunnel project. Image: Yle / Derrick Frilund

Last week the FinEst Bay Area Helsinki-Tallinn tunnel project received 100 million euros from a Dubai-based construction group ARJ Holding – the first external financing made towards the estimated 15-billion-euro effort.

Peter Vesterbacka - a man who made a fortune as a marketing boss at mobile gaming firm Rovio - is leading the project. He told Yle that initial financing ensures that digging a tunnel under the Gulf of Finland is an achievable goal within a matter of six years.

"It is definitely realistic. We are counting on being able to start drilling in earnest in 2020. Then it will take a couple of years to complete the tunnels," Vesterbacka said, noting that paperwork has begun on both sides of the Gulf.

He said the process is not as complicated as people have been led to believe.

"People have told me, 'Hey, Peter you have to understand that it takes at least 10 years just to plan.' Well, that took half a year," he said.

"It is the same thing with the permits [process]. There are no laws on the books that it should take a very long time, rather it can be done more quickly. We are doing a lot in parallel," he said.

However, at the same time as Vesterbacka's efforts, another separate tunnel project is underway on behalf of the Finnish state and the city of Helsinki. Finland received an EU grant to look into the feasibility of digging a tunnel in 2016.

The feasibility study placed the price of a one-way ticket at 36 euros and estimated the final cost of constructing a state-backed FinEstLink tunnel would amount to around 13 billion euros.

A similar study carried out by Estonia published last summer found that FinEstLink would cost around 16 billion euros.

Story continues after photo.

Juna tulee tunnelista esiin
File photo of artist's rendition of the FinEstLink project. Image: Sweco

However, earlier this month Minister of Transport and Communications Anne Berner said the state tunnel project must be approached with caution.

Two projects or one?

"We must hurry slowly and coordinate this project carefully," Berner said, according to media reports. She added that the ministries of environment of both countries should be involved in the process, saying that the environmental impact assessments would take at least five to six years.

According an article in Swedish-language daily Hufvudstadsbladet earlier this month, Berner said she welcomes cooperation from external parties and private financing of the project but that the project requires strong backing from the state.

However, Vesterbacka said that there are not two separate tunnel projects, but only one - his.

"[Berner] said that there is only one project, and that’s this one. It is clear that we need to have close cooperation and we have that with the countries and the cities," he declared.

"Thirty percent of the financing will come directly from investments in the company, and 70 percent will come from loans," Vesterbacka added.

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