Tallinn tunnel developers announce Arctic railway bid

A rail link through Finnish Lapland to the Arctic could cut 20 freight days on cargo trips from Asia to Europe and boost tourism, says developers.

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Peter Vesterbacka (c) talks to a journalist at the Arctic Business Forum in Rovaniemi, 9th May 2019 / Credit: Arctic Business Forum Twitter

The company behind plans to build a tunnel between Finland and Estonia have jumped into the frame to develop a new high-speed Arctic railway line as well.

Finest Bay Area Development Oy, fronted by former Angry Birds entrepreneur Peter Vesterbacka, announced in Rovaniemi today their intentions to build a train line through Finnish Lapland and up into the harbour at Kirkenes in northern Norway.

The announcement came at the Arctic Business Forum currently taking place in Rovaniemi.

The memorandum of understanding in partnership with Norwegian development company Sør-Varanger Utvikling, will look at ways to plan and implement a new railway connection, while at the same time promoting entrepreneurship, education and industrial development in northern Finland and Norway the companies say in a press release.

“This is an important initiative. We will proceed like we do with the Tallinn tunnel project. We will examine all alternatives together with all stakeholders. Collaboration with Sør-Varanger has already started” says Vesterbacka.

The new consortium estimate that any new Arctic railway could be up and running within five year.

Controversial railway connection 

Separate plans drawn up by the Finnish government to build a railway connection to sea ports in the north of Norway have come under sustained criticism from environmentalists and many members of the Sámi community.

Their main concerns are about how the railway will cut through reindeer grazing lands, inhibit herd movements and limit incomes, and potentially put an end to this traditional way of life altogether. There are other cultural and environmental sensitivities about large-scale infrastructure projects in the pristine Lapland wilderness.

Vesterbacka tells News Now Finland he has already had some initial discussions with Sámi political leaders about how to mitigate the impact of any new railway connection, and also how it could benefit the communities in the north. He says that options to put part of the railway underground, or on an elevated track, could be considered.

Ongoing Tallinn tunnel project 

The Finest Bay Area Development company is also behind ambitious plans to build a high speed rail link between Helsinki Airport and Tallinn Airport, which would run the whole way underground.

The company as already attracted more than €15 billion in investment pledges from the Middle East and China to build the tunnel, four stations and a new island community development off the coast of Finland.

However the project is beset by political roadblocks. Vesterbacka wants to route the tunnel through Keilaniemi in Espoo, a hub of international and high tech businesses. However the Mayor of Helsinki Jan Vapaavuori (NCP) insists that any tunnel must go through Helsinki Central Railway Station.

Vapaavuori has raised no funds for his vision of the project and in any case the Finnish government has their own slow-speed plans to build a tunnel link within the next 35 years. Vesterbacka’s still claims his tunnel could be open for business by the end of 2024.