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Gulf of Finland - Estonia and Finland cooperation memorandum gives new impulse to twin-region

Published the 26 February 2016

On 5th of January 2016 the Estonian Minister of Economy and Communications, Kristen Michal, and Finnish Minister of Transport and Communications, Anne Berner, together with Acting Mayors of Tallinn, Taavi Aas, and Helsinki, Pekka Sauri, as well as Regional Mayor of Helsinki-Uusimaa, Ossi Savolainen, and Harju County Governor, Ülle Rajasalu, signed a Memorandum of Finnish-Estonian Transport Link Initiative.

The document has an ambition to activate Estonian-Finnish cross-border cooperation through enhanced mobility and digital interaction. Parties have a common goal to support the integration of economies, improve common labour markets and to establish economic, social, cultural and educational links and networks in order to intensify the mutually beneficial integration of the Finnish and Estonian societies.

The document is explicitly stating that twin-region of Tallinn-Helsinki has a potential of being one of the leading economic centres of Northern Europe. This is the first time when two countries neighbouring over Gulf of Finland have inter-governmentally stated the importance of twin-regional development and push together for economic complementarities and aim to lay grounds for further networks and innovation based industry.

European Straits Initiative partners Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional Council and Harju County Government were initiators to the memorandum and have taken encouragement from the experience gained through cooperation within the ESI network.

TEN-T bottleneck between Tallinn and Helsinki

Helsinki and Tallinn are the two most remote EU capitals from the centre of Europe with regard to land transportation and travel times in Europe. With intense traffic between Tallinn and Helsinki reaching 9 million trips annually, there is serious quest for new solutions for so called “Talsinki” twin-region travel. Rail Baltic project connecting three Baltic countries (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) into European rail network on North-Sea Baltic Corridor is a major step towards improving the existing situation. As an improvement for the pan-European network, the 6 signing parties declare intent to remove the Helsinki-Tallinn bottleneck on the North-Sea Baltic TEN-T Corridor and support the implementation of a full feasibility study on the Finnish-Estonian Transport Fixed Link.

Tallinn-Helsinki tunnel feasibility study starting

Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional Council as a lead partner together with Estonian Ministry of Economy and Communications, Finnish Transport Agency, cities of Tallinn and Helsinki and Harju County, has been successful in first stage of two-staged application process for funding from Interreg Central-Baltic Programme for a feasibility study project called Finnish Estonian Transport Link (FinEst Link). The project is scheduled to start in September 2016. Main focus of the project is on full scale feasibility study and assessment on regional impact of the “Talsinki” tunnel. Previous project, Helsinki-Tallinn fixed link pre-feasibility study called TALSINKIFIX estimated that costs for potential megaproject, world longest under-sea transport tunnel, could be between €9bln to €13bln and repayment period 35-40 years. EUSBSR Seed Money Facility project has laid grounds for more detailed look into subject and in all positive case-scenario, first travellers could enter the tunnel as soon as 2032.

New technologies looming

Freshly signed memorandum is putting emphasis on the field of digitalization of transport. As the Tallinn-Helsinki route is facing heavy traffic, cross-border challenges and smoother and seamless travel and logistics is more and more becoming forefront issue. In order to fully capitalize on twin-regional dynamism and complementary values, need for multimodal solutions and comprehensive transport system is common challenge for both countries. Well connected region is laying grounds for growth and competitiveness.

Central-Baltic Programme has given first green light to another project dealing with digitalization and improvement for existing connection. Project FinEstSmartMobility provides more fluent integration of different transport modes of this inter-city and cross-border traffic with planning and piloting of ICT-driven solutions, in order to reduce time in transportation for both passengers and cargo.

Talsinki twin-city could well be reality in next few years where common ticketing, comprehensive transport system and cross-border travel as a part of local transport could well give ground for one of Europe’s most dynamic innovation hub

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