FinEst Link project seminar (from left): Jan Vapaavuori, Taavi Aas, Ossi Savolainen, Andre Sepp, Anne Berner and Kadri Simson. (Photo: Kimmo Brandt)

The Helsinki–Tallinn railway tunnel to become an engine of regional growth

The results of the FinEst Link project, published earlier today, state that a fast connection between Helsinki and Tallinn could bring major regional, national benefits and growth potential for Europe.

According to the FinEst Link feasibility study, the railway tunnel would help create a metropolitan twin-city region of three million inhabitants in the future where people, goods and services could move around easily. The expanding labour market would create economic growth, open new possibilities for businesses and improve the quality of life. The Helsinki–Tallinn tunnel with travel time of only 30 minutes would enable daily commuting across the Gulf of Finland and connect the rail network from Central Europe via Finland to the Arctic. The feasibility study is made as conventional railway both for passengers and freight and good connection to both countries transport systems.

– From the viewpoint of deeper twin-city integration and regional development there could be major benefits from the tunnel. Geographically Finland resembles an island and the tunnel would offer a connection to the Central European rail network, says FinEst Link Project Director Kari Ruohonen.

The FinEst Link project published the results of the feasibility study in the final conference held in Tallinn. The economic and technical feasibility, impacts and costs of a railway tunnel between Helsinki and Tallinn were widely discussed by speakers such as Prime Minister of Estonia Jüri Ratas, Transport Minister Anne Berner and Kadri Simson, the Mayors of Helsinki and Tallinn Jan Vapaavuori and Taavi Aas, Regional Mayor Ossi Savolainen from Helsinki-Uusimaa region and Chairman of the Board Andre Sepp from the Union of Harju County Municipalities.

Cost of 16 billion euros, 15 years of construction

In the FinEst Link project, the investment cost of the railway tunnel has been estimated at 13–20 billion euros. The project uses a mean value of 16 billion euros. The amount includes, for instance, tunnel construction, two artificial islands, planning costs, stations, terminals and depots excluding however the costs for rolling stock.

The tunnel project could be economically feasible by using a public-private partnership model where the private sector finances the building of the tunnel. and an EU grant would be needed to cover 40 % of the costs. After becoming operational, the ticket revenues from the trains and tunnel fees would cover the annual operational and maintenance costs of the tunnel. In addition, the train operation requires subsidies. The subsidy from Finland and Estonia is 280 million euros per year for 40 years.

After a planning phase, the building and boring of the tunnel could start in 2025 and be built in 15 years. The tunnel would be ready for passengers and cargo in 2040.

The FinEst Link project analysed the economic and technical feasibility of a railway tunnel for passenger and cargo traffic using a conventional rail operation concept but asked for ideas from new technology developers presented their ideas and solutions at the Tallinn final conference.

– Emerging innovations such as technological development and innovative financial solutions could increase the feasibility of the fixed link and shorten its planning schedule, estimates Project Director Kari Ruohonen.

Half an hour from Helsinki to Tallinn for 18 euros

The FinEst Link feasibility study presents an operational model where at peak hours passenger trains run at 20-minute intervals at 200km/h. The travel time is 30 minutes and single ticket costs 18 euros. The price of a frequent traveller ticket is 15 euros and of a 30-day ticket 480 euros. Approximately 40 passenger trains run between Helsinki and Tallinn daily.

Car shuttle trains, truck trains and cargo trains run approximately 30 times per day at the speed of 120–160 kilometers per hour. Transferring a private car in shuttle costs 70 euros.

The FinEst Link final report identifies a tunnel system with two single-track tunnels and one service tunnel with cross-passages. Rails for crossing cargo trains are built in the stations. The maintenance of the tunnel is carried out at night time.

Railway tunnel connecting two national airports

In the study, the tunnel alignment with stations, terminals and depots has been defined. On the Finnish side, there are three stations for passenger traffic: Helsinki city centre, Pasila and Helsinki-Vantaa airport.

The terminals and depots on the Finnish side could be located at the noise area of the airport. The terminals would serve the cargo traffic of all Finland. The tunnel would connect fluently to the planned Ring Road 4 (Kehä 4) and other road network, to logistic terminals and to the Hanko-Hyvinkää track creating a well-functioning connection to the rest of Finland.

In Tallinn, the tunnel would reach Ülemiste which is a growing commercial area a bit more than three kilometers distance from the Old Town. Located close to the Tallinn airport, Ülemiste has a recently opened tram connection to the city center. The terminals and depots would be located at the airport noise area and close to the logistic areas. For freight transport, the tunnel would connect to the Muuga terminal which is the largest cargo harbor in Estonia.

In the tunnel, the tracks would have the European gauge of 1435 mm but when joining the planned Airport Line in Helsinki, a part of the tunnel tube would have both tracks: the European standard and the Finnish one (1524 mm).

The longest railway tunnel to increase passenger and cargo volumes

The Helsinki–Tallinn tunnel alignment is 103 kilometers long which by the current standards would be the longest undersea railway tunnel in the world. According to the FinEst Link calculations, approximately 12,5 million passengers would take the train and 10,5 million the fast ferries totalling to 23 million passengers per year in 2050. Currently approximately nine million passengers travel between the cities per year.

– A significant increase to the passenger volumes comes from daily commuters who would have whole new possibilities for living and working, explains Kari Ruohonen.

The FinEst Link project foresees significant growth potential for cargo if the tunnel is built. According to its estimations 4 million tons of cargo would run both in the tunnel and on the ferries resulting to a total of 8 million tons per year in 2050. Currently the amount of cargo between Helsinki and Tallinn is approximately 3.8 million tons.

The FinEst Link feasibility study estimates the passenger and cargo volumes to double or triple in the next 30 years. Also, the volumes in the ferries would continue to grow even if the tunnel is built.

FinEst Link
• The project is led by Helsinki–Uusimaa Regional Council in partnership with the Cities of Helsinki and Tallinn, Union of Harju County Municipalities, Finnish Transport Agency and the Estonian Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications.
• Co-funding received from the EU’s Interreg Central Baltic programme
• Budget is 1.3 million euros for 2016–2018
• Consultants of the FinEst Link feasibility study are: Amberg Engineering, Sweco Finland, WSP, Ramboll Finland, Sito, Pöyry, Strafica, Kaupunkitutkimus TA, Inspira and Rebel Group. Visual materials by Kairo Design Agency.

More information

FinEst Link Project

The FinEst Link Final Report

The FinEst Link brochure