Plans to build high-speed railways between Helsinki and the cities of Tampere and Turku have taken a step forward.
The Finnish state has reached agreement with municipalities along the route to set up companies that will oversee the planning phase of the estimated 5.75 billion euro projects.
Once set up, the firms will then be able to apply for EU support.
If and when the new track is constructed, new trains will race along the track at a maximum speed of 300 km/h, and the travel time between Turku's Kupittaa and Helsinki's Pasila stations will be just over an hour.
The remaining planning and design phase of the One Hour Train project - the planned fast link from Helsinki to Turku - will cost an estimated 75 million euros. Meanwhile, the expected cost of designing the line between the capital and Tampere is approximately 150 million euros.
The state has agreed to back 51 percent of those costs with the remainder paid by 25 municipalities along the planned lines.
The municipalities as well as national airport operator Finavia have made preliminary decisions on the contributions they will each make towards the planning phase. Finavia is involved because the fast link to Tampere is planned to start at Helsinki Airport.
Rush for EU funding
Turku Mayor Minna Arve said she was pleased that the project is moving forward, but noted that it is still early days.
"It is import that the One Hour Train project continues. We can now move on to the following step with the help from a project company. We've been cooperating well with cities on the one-hour line for a long time," Arve said, adding that reaching the next phase of the project was important.
The role of the companies will be to lay out plans for construction of the new railroad. Once set up, the firms are expected to apply for EU funding from the bloc's Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) funds, which are grant to developing transportation, energy and digital services projects of member states.
Applications for that funding need to be submitted by 26 Feburary, but first need to be handled by the Finnish government's committee on monetary affairs, municipalities and by Finavia's board.
"Of course one can think that there's a rush now, but the parties have agreed to move quickly. There is enough time to submit the application in time," Arve said.
In addition to these projects, the transport ministry is also awaiting results of a study concerning the possible construction of a new rail line that heads east from Helsinki, partially along the southern coast.