Renewed momentum for Helsinki-Tallinn fixed link 22 Feb 2018

TunnelTalk reporting

Aspirations for a fixed link between the capital city of Finland, Helsinki, and the Estonian capital city Tallinn across the Baltic Sea have been discussed for several decades with various alternatives proposed and discussed to create what would be the longest undersea tunnel and longest international rail transportation connection.

Today the reality of the 100km under the sea link is being pursued by the FinEst Bay Area Helsinki-Tallinn Tunnel consortium and cooperation founded in the Summer of 2016 by business entrepreneur Peter Vesterbacka. The link is recognized by the European Union in its the TEN-T rail network interconnectivity programme across the EU zone and as part of the Baltic Rail Corridor connecting the two member nations and linking Scandinavia with the main core of Europe.

Fig 1. Major elements of the FinEst fixed link vision
Fig 1. Major elements of the FinEst fixed link vision

The FinEst project, promoted by Finnish founder of mobile gaming company Rovio Entertainment Vesterbacka, is independent of the fixed links being developed by the Governments of Finland and Estonia and is a private initiative based on a public-private partnership concessionaire model.

A feasibility study by FinEst Link, suggests that its planned link could be constructed over 15 years and at a cost of €16 billion. Within the model the private sector would finance construction and an EU grant would be needed to cover 40% of the costs. A subsidy to run state rail services from Finland and Estonia would amount to an estimated €280 million/year for 40 years and revenues from tunnel usage fees would cover operational and maintenance costs.

Members in the promoting group FinEst include consulting design groups Pöyry and Fira and the FinEst Bay Area Development corporation. Joining the team recently is AINS Civil Engineering of Finland, adding know-how in underground structures, construction management and the use of digital tools and platforms in construction.

Vesterbacka introduces his fixed link concept
Vesterbacka introduces his fixed link concept

While an immersed tube concept is expected to provide the central 100km long undersea link, the project includes a wide range of infrastructure engineering to create a proposed man-made island off the coast of Finland and four new stations at Tallinn airport, on the artificial Island, at OtaKeila and at the Helsinki-Vantaa Airport (Fig 1). The FinEst project will be designed for high-speed trains providing a commuter journey from Tallinn Airport to Helsinki-Vantaa Airport in just 20-25 minutes.

The vision is to a new metropolitan hub of two million people at the heart of the Baltic Sea area, connecting the leading technology and business hubs of Finland and Estonia. As well as creating an international connection, the new districts around the stations will be developed to support economic growth with services and housing construction.

“The possibility of building a fixed-link between the two cities has been discussed for more than two decades,” said Timo Saanio, Vice President, Export & Customer relations, AINS Civil Engineering. “We have a proven track record of implementing new technologies and different solutions in construction of underground structures and we are excited to bring that expertise to this top-notch project.”

The other main undersea fixed-link project in the European arena is the 18km Fehmarn road and rail immersed tube connection between Denmark and Germany, which is awaiting approval of environmental processes in Germany. Procurement for the crossing began in 2012 and conditional civil contracts were signed in 2016. Denmark approved the binational project in 2015 and is leading the funding and delivery process which is now planned to begin the construction phase in 2020.


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