The plans for the construction of a 103 km long tunnel under the Gulf of Finland between Finland and Estonia, financed from private sources, were postponed after the regional council of the Uusimaa region differs with the project developers on the laying option for future highway under the territory of the Finnish capital.
According to the council, the passage of the tunnel through Helsinki with the possibility of transfer to existing city routes will reduce the trip time in suburban traffic.
At the same time, the Finnish company Finestbay Area Development, which was in charge of the project, offered several options that could be included in the regional zoning plan.
According to the company, the political decision adopted by the regional council may delay the start of the project for almost 6 years (according to Bloomberg – up to 7 years).
Currently, Finestbay Area Development is considering three options for the passage of the tunnel through Finland and five in Estonia. Although the geological features of the area have already been well studied, Finestbay Area Development believes that the approved option will require additional research.
They also expect that, despite the delay caused by the recent decision of the regional council, work on individual sections of the project, including the railway station at Helsinki Airport, may begin in 2021.
Helsinki already has one tunnel that connects the capital’s airport with Tampere. The construction of a second tunnel in the city, according to Finestbay Area Development, would be tantamount to laying two metro lines running parallel to one another, which has no economic justification.
Finestbay Area Development had plans for a tunnel through the second largest city in Finland – Espoo.
Finestbay Area Development is currently completing an environmental impact assessment of the project for Estonia, but for the time being, similar work has been postponed for Finland.
The Tunnel Design and Construction Memorandum of Understanding was signed on July 12, 2019 by FinestBay Area Development with Chinese partners: Touchstone Capital Partners (TCP), China Railway International Group (CRIG) and China Railway Engineering Company (CREC). And even before that, in March 2019, FinEstBay Area Development and the Chinese fund Touchstone Capital Partners signed a protocol of intent with a guarantee of financing of construction in the amount of 15 billion euros.
At the same time, FinestBay Area Development noted that the decision made by the regional council of Uusimaa will not affect the financial component of the project.
The tunnel under the Gulf of Finland between Finland and Estonia will significantly reduce the travel time between the capitals of the two countries and will create a single agglomeration.
According to a preliminary feasibility study completed in 2018, passenger traffic between the capitals can grow from 9 million in 2017 to 23 million people. by 2050, including 12.5 million people traveling through the tunnel.
Entering the tunnel will reduce travel time from the current 2 hours by ferry to 20 minutes by train. The total cost of construction will be 15 – 20 billion euros.
Finland will have access to the future Rail Baltica highway, which will connect the three Baltic states with Poland and Western Europe with a 1,435 mm gauge line (computer graphics, source: Finestbay Area Development).