Finland plans partnership in Baltic rail connection project
The connection is essential for the feasibility of the possible railroad tunnel that goes across Gulf of Finland, a project that is still in the early stage of planning.
Finland is preparing for a partnership with the RB Rail AS, a joint venture created by the Baltic states to coordinate the Rail Baltica project. The project is part of the TEN-T core networks of the European Union (EU) and is to be operational in 2025.
Berner underlined Rail Baltica as a new route for transports to Europe and Asia. The possible railroad tunnel from Helsinki to Tallinn via the Gulf of Finland would later connect with Rail Baltica.
Berner and Estonian Minister for Infrastructure Kadri Simonson discussed the tunnel project in Helsinki on Friday.
There is currently no schedule, nor an actual budget for the tunnel. The ministers said an environmental study will take five to six years.
In addition to the tunnel plan promoted by Finnish and Estonian governments, there is a private tunnel initiative ongoing with a slightly different routing.
Berner said that for a project of this size "there cannot be parallel plans". "But for the operators and the financiers, we are open," she said.
"Whoever builds the tunnel will need structural support and what we are doing here is to provide those structural elements," Berner said. Besides an expected 40 percent EU input, the tunnel would need public and private financing.
The Finnish government has outlined that the tunnel must be included in the EU core routes. Berner said Finland and Estonia must do their homework about the tunnel first, and then apply.
Both ministers will attend the EU Transport and Communications Council meeting in Brussels next week. The EU core network list and its implementation are on the agenda there, Berner said. ■