The future of Finland is well connected
Finest Bay Area Development
Finland is an island – a saying that has been repeated for a long time and for a good reason because it is true. As a discussion topic, this has even become a little humorous. Finland has invested in well-functioning ship connections and smooth flight routes, but recent years have shown brutally how vulnerable those connections can be in the face of a crisis or global pandemic. Additional connections would be welcome even for normal everyday life.
Finest Bay Area Development launched the railway tunnel project between Finland and Estonia in 2016 by conducting preliminary calculations and technical assessments with PWC, AINS Group and AFRY. Since then, the project has been systematically driven forward step by step. The project outcome once completed will be the longest undersea railway tunnel in the world. It is built by drilling, using tunnel boring machines and it is entirely underground for the whole length of 103km. To be built are two tunnel pipes, one for freight traffic and the other for passenger traffic, in addition the tunnel can host other infrastructure, such as data and energy cables. The tunnel connects two metropolitan areas into single one, reducing the current travel time from 2.5 hours to 20 minutes making the travel intra-city rather than inter-city. The Helsinki and Tallinn regions are transformed into a large common urban area that creates new and unprecedented attraction worldwide, gravity. The four stations to be built along the tunnel line will provide a new city to populate on both sides the Gulf of Finland.
The environmental impact assessment (EIA) of the tunnel was initiated in April 2019, when all countries in the Baltic Sea region, including Russia, were officially notified. The feedback has been factual and there has been no opposition to the tunnel from any country. The EIA process is coordinated by the Ministries of the Environment in both countries. The EIA has already nearly completed in Finland, having conducted various surveys and studies. In Estonia, the process has been blocked for ideological reasons, even though the project is included in the Estonian Government’s government program. The opposition has mainly come from Center party and some specific companies, and the single biggest reason for this opposition has been that infrastructure such as the tunnel should not be built or owned by a private party. This ideology runs strongly against the principles of open competition in the EU and are not on a sustainable foundation.
Strategic importance and NATO
The strategic importance of the tunnel has been emphasized by Finland’s application for NATO membership. It clearly already had a defensive significance in the past, but now in the future, when the tunnel connects two NATO member states, it will rise to a whole new level. The mobility of troops and equipment is an obvious scenario. Security of supply, sabotage, intelligence and civil protection are a more complex dimension. It was easy to blow up the Nord Stream gas pipelines and at the same time we got a glimpse of the threat picture of how easily shipping in the Baltic Sea can be stopped. The tunnel is easier to defend, and it is protected deep inside the ground. In Finland, the tunnel would be connected to the existing networks of underground facilities, of which there are lots of in the Helsinki metropolitan area. Tunnel stations can serve as civil defense shelters, especially in Tallinn, where very few shelters have been built. The benefits of a fixed link are undeniable.
Close to 90% of Finnish logistics are maritime. It would be good to have other options to balance the situation. Approximately 6700 trucks are responsible for Finland’s daily logistics. Channel tunnel daily through put is 4400, the Finest Bay Area tunnel is bigger so volume that could pass through will be higher. The tunnel will make use of the Rail Baltica that is under construction even though completion date was recently pushed forward four years without any reasoning. In some thoughts, there has been a glimpse of a train connection through Sweden serving Finland. This is certainly possible in some respects, but the sad truth is that the stream of trucks passing through the north would block all roads and railways. In other words, we need more connections in terms of security of supply and lowering the risk of maritime vulnerabilities.
For the tunnel project, the next practical steps are the completion of the EIA and the application for building permits in both countries. With these, the construction of the tunnel by drilling can begin.
The tunnel will act as a driver of sustainable development and increase the attractiveness of our region globally. The future is built by young experts who create new inventions and make a better tomorrow. We live in a global competitive landscape for those smart young talents. Finland and Estonia are world leaders in education and innovation. Our startups have already created several success stories (like Supercell and Rovio) and we see a significant number more to come. The region is currently attracting more investment capital in relation to population than any other country in the world. However, we must ensure that we do not stay where we are, but that we create the conditions for the future.
A good example of a success story is the world’s largest concentration of game developers in Finland, who produce about 6% of all the world’s mobile games, bringing significant export revenue to our country. We are larger than our size in this field, which has come about thanks to a close-knit talent pool and a high level of education. This is exactly what we see the tunnel enabling. A new kind of attraction is emerging that attracts people here to the Finest Bay Area to study, live, innovate and start new companies, build the future. We have a world-class framework for all of this.
Expert article 3315
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