Options for a tunnel between the Estonian and Finnish capitals explored

The local authorities of Tallinn and Helsinki as well as respective ministries responsible for transport and communications signed a memo this week, which, among other agreements, considers building an undersea tunnel between the two countries.

In a memorandum signed in Tallinn on 5 January, the partners state that the economic area formed by the capital cities and their deepening integration improve the global competitiveness and economic development of both Estonia and Finland, the city council of Helsinki announced via statement.

“Today Helsinki and Tallinn almost constitute one labour market area. It is estimated that the Helsinki region employs tens of thousands of Estonians, many of whom commute between the cities weekly on fast ferries. Helsinki and Tallinn together form an economic area of approximately 1.5 million people. To fully utilise the area’s potential, transport between the cities should be faster and flow easier than at present,” Helsinki’s local authority said.

The memorandum said a potential long-term solution to shorten the distance between the cities would be provided by an undersea railway tunnel, seeking to investigate further the economic preconditions for the construction and operation of such a tunnel and its socioeconomic impact.

“In early 2015, the cities of Helsinki and Tallinn published a prefeasibility study based on simple calculations showing that the tunnel would be an economically viable investment,” the statement added.

The tunnel would shorten the travel time between the capital cities to about 30 minutes, from at least 90 minutes currently by fast ferry. The tunnel’s length would depend upon the route taken – the shortest distance across would have a submarine length of 50 kilometres (31 miles), making it the longest undersea tunnel in the world. The tunnel could open after 2030 at the earliest and would cost an estimated €9-13 billion.

From the Finnish point of view, one of the goals is to link Finland with the fast Rail Baltica railway connection, which will run from Estonia to Poland and is projected to be complete in 2025, after which the travel time by rail from Tallinn to Warsaw will be four hours and 15 minutes.

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Cover: How the projected tunnel entrance could look like (courtesy of Sweco AB).

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