Estonian minister pours cold water on private Tallinn tunnel project

The Estonian government says they would only support a Finnish-Estonian state funded tunnel construction project, despite the Finnish ministry says no such project exists.

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Graphic showing detail of proposed high speed rail link tunnel / Credit: Finest Bay Area

Estonia’s Minister of Administration Jaak Aab says his government will not support the privately-financed Tallinn-Helsinki tunnel initiative championed by a Finnish company.

FinEst Bay Area Development Oy, fronted by businessman Peter Vesterbacka, has secured €15 billion in funding promises to build the high speed rail link under the Baltic Sea between Helsinki Airport and Tallinn Airport.

However it’s been hit with recent problems: first the developers’ preferred routing option via two new artificial islands through Espoo to the airport in Vantaa was blocked by  Uusimaa Regional Council, after pressure from the City of Helsinki to route the tunnel  through the Central Railway Station instead.

Now Aab has raised objections in the Estonian media about security threats, funding and the business case for the viability of the tunnel project. The minister says his government would instead back a public-funded tunnel – although Finland’s Ministry of Transport and Communications stated again today that no such project exists.

“We were very surprised about the Estonian minister and ministry coming out with this type of message and actually not contacting us one-to-one, as we have been working with them for several years now very closely and our Estonian representative he’s probably in contact with the ministry people on a weekly basis” says Kustaa Valtonen, one of the developers from FinEst Bay Area.

Valtonen also questions how Aab could think there might not be enough passengers or cargo for a privately-funded tunnel project, but he could get on board a government-funded project instead, and wonders what figures Aab was basing his views on.

Estonian minister Jaak Aab also raised concerns about unspecific security issues around the tunnel, but Valtonen says national security is an issue for the governments of Estonian but they haven’t communicated any specific guidance on this.

“Unfortunately in the statement they put out, it wasn’t said whether it was national security, personal security or what. But anyway many of those security-related features, technological, fire extinguisher systems, whatever you have, are designed during the [planning] process so we have no detailed answer yet” Valtonen tells News Now Finland.

The tunnel was due to open in December 2024, but developers say that with Uusimaa Regional Council insisting on a routing through Helsinki city centre, it could delay the project by up to seven years.

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