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Thursday's papers: Tunnel dreams, overtime bans and Centre Party wrangling

The papers on Thursday look at plans for a tunnel linking Tallinn and Helsinki, staffing levels at Helsinki hospitals, and plotting in the Centre Party.

Jan Vapaavuori, Taavi Aas, Ossi Savolainen, Andre Sepp, Anne Berner ja Kadri Simson.
Helsinkii and Tallinn officials get their hard hats on, even though they are not planning to start constructing their tunnel until 2025. Image: Raul Mee / Lehtikuva

On Wednesday officials from Helsinki and Tallinn gathered in Estonia for the publication of a feasibility study on the possibility of building a tunnel linking the two cities. The report included a timetable, costings and a tantalising promise of a thirty minute journey between the Finnish and Estonian capitals.

Helsingin Sanomat has quotes from the event, with Helsinki mayor Jan Vapaavuori emphasising that Wednesday's event was an important first step, but still just a first step. Construction of the tunnel planned by the governments would start in 2025 and last fifteen years, and EU funding would be a crucial part of the overall picture for the official project, known as FinEst Link.

That's quite a different approach to the competing project, led by Rovio founder Peter Vesterbacka, which aims to build a tunnel without recourse to public funds before the 'civil servants project' gets a spade in the ground. Taloussanomat interviews the publicity-hungry Vesterbacka, who admits that his timetable is 'aggressive' but says he won't succeed if he sets his sights too low.

The paper also asks Transport Ministry official Risto Murto for his opinion. Murto says that he doesn't believe Vesterbacka's timetable can be kept, but that some form of co-operation between the private and public projects might well be possible.

Nurses strike back

HS covers the impact of an industrial dispute that means workers across a range of municipal sectors are now refusing shift swaps and overtime. The paper focuses on healthcare, noting that the overtime ban is already causing problems for hospitals in the Helsinki and Uusimaa hospital district (HUS).

Surgical procedures may have to be cancelled and services concentrated in larger units as staff are refusing to perform overtime until their pay dispute is resolved.

That is indicative, HS says, of a system that relies on overtime to get the job done. There is a lack of qualified, capable staff in Finland, and HUS boss Aki Linden says that he would hire anyone who could do the job.

The trade union, meanwhile, says the problems indicate understaffing.

"It paints a sad picture, when we haven't even had a full morning shift and HUS says there is already chaos," said nursing union chair Millariikka Rytkönen.

Väyrynen on Centre Party minds

Iltalehti carries a story about a meeting of Centre Party bigwigs planned for Thursday. According to the paper, the party wants to try and prevent Paavo Väyrynen running for party leader at the party congress this summer.

The Keminmaa MEP is in an interesting position, having founded his own party but remaining a member of the Centre as well. He can only be expelled by his local branch, but that branch does not want to throw him out. He ran for president this year as an independent, getting more support than the Centre candidate Matti Vanhanen and criticising the liberal line Centre leaders have taken in recent years.

So Väyrynen is for now in limbo and, as ever, relishing the fight and the campaign he's currently running.

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