Editorial: the Finnish pipe dream

PHOTO: Urmas Nemvalts

Remember punk group J.M.K.E. long ago singing about a pipe to Finland? The song said Tallinn would instantly empty out ...

Yesterday, another study was discussed in Helsinki regarding the Tallinn-Helsinki connection i.e. a railway tunnel underneath the Gulf of Finland. The summary says the tunnel and transport infrastructure would cost €9–13bn, 40 percent of which should come from EU funds plus Estonian and Finnish state coffers. The construction could be launched in 10–15 years, the work would take 8–10 years.

A tunnel like this would doubtless be cool. It would strengthen Estonia-Finland and Tallinn-Helsinki ties and serve to integrate us further, mostly by shortening journeys by Finns towards Europe. The tunnel would come with lots of benefits. A wonderful utopia, with precious little links to reality.

The study published is profusely optimistic: for instance, they find that while in 2013 some 8 million people travelled between Helsinki and Tallinn, over the next 70 years that could balloon to 41 million a year. Pure fiction: with such a long view in mind, why not try and predict if Estonia and Finland still exist in the current shape.

Nice with enthusiasm, but it is not difficult to see that when it comes to such mega projects planned, Estonia and Finland do sit in European periphery. We have far too few folks living here, the distance to the other side is too long for a tunnel, and the entire project too costly to execute in some foreseeable future. We may rest rather assured: during the generations born by now, no Estonia-Finland tunnel.

Should it still happen in some distant times to come, building tunnels will probably be several times cheaper. Or, perhaps, the entire transport issue will be solved some other way and the need for a tunnel will be no more.

But why not study whatever? For instance, calculations have been made for a UK to Australia tunnel straight through the globe. In the 2012 movie «Total Recall», the trip takes mere 17 minutes. Enthusiasts have checked it over: in real life, the travelling time would be a lot longer – 46 minutes or so.

Instead of wasting today’s money for studies regarding a utopian tunnel, why not check and see the asphalt condition of streets in Tallinn. And try to remember when we last heard a decent thought on a bridge to Saaremaa. 

Thankfully, ships and planes go between Tallinn and Helsinki all day long. The options to go see neighbours are a lot more varied than ten, even five years back. Instead the pipe dreams, why not see about better use of what we have.