What is the FinEst Link Initiative?

FinEst Link is an initiative founded and executed by the City of Helsinki, the City of Tallinn Government, the Estonian Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, the Finnish Ministry of Transport and Communications, the Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional Council and the Harju County Government of Estonia. The Finnish-Estonian Transport Link cooperation document was approved in Tallinn on 5 January 2016.

The goal of the FinEst Link cooperation is to develop mobility between Helsinki and Tallinn and to improve transport links. The cooperation will also provide the framework for deepening economic co-operation between Helsinki and Tallinn as well as investigating the economic preconditions and impact of the proposed Helsinki–Tallinn railway tunnel. Furthermore, the cooperation will be used to develop an electronic travel card and a Finland-Estonia journey planner.

These pages provide information on mobility between Helsinki and Tallinn for residents, the authorities and the media. The website contains statistics, research data and other background information about mobility between the cities and about related projects. Readers and the media can submit questions and interview requests on the themes to the website editors using the request form.

The website was produced on an assignment from the City of Helsinki and the Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional Council. For the time being, the site is maintained by the City of Helsinki Economic Development division.

Facts about mobility

Mobility between Helsinki and Tallinn has increased throughout the 2000’s. Passenger numbers have increased in Helsinki–Tallinn ferry traffic, even when other economic indicators have declined. Today more than 8 million people cross the Gulf of Finland annually, approximately 20 percent of whom are tourists from other countries than Finland and Estonia, while the rest are Finns and Estonians. The number of cars crossing the Gulf of Finland in 2014 was 1.2 million. According to a study by KPMG commissioned by the City of Helsinki and based on data from Statistics Finland, commuters from Tallinn to Helsinki in 2012 exceeded those from other large Finnish cities including Turku, Tampere and cities of Eastern Finland. A new estimate, produced by Taloustutkimus TA, will be completed in February 2016.


Passenger Car Traffic between Helsinki and Tallinn

Exact numbers on traffic between Helsinki and Tallinn are available here: Ulla Tapaninen’s presentation 25 October 2015

Helsinki–Tallinn railway tunnel?

A prefeasibility study on an undersea Helsinki–Tallinn railway tunnel, produced by Sweco Projekt AS and partners, was completed in February 2015. The study addressed the costs and economic benefits of the proposed tunnel. The objective was to find out whether a more detailed study on the undersea railway tunnel proposal would be advisable.

Sweco based its study on a shareholding model. According to their calculations, the initial investment in the construction of the tunnel would be paid back to the investors in 40 years in the form of passenger fares and freight charges. The revenue was calculated from the 2014 ferry charges with somewhat higher passenger numbers than in 2014. It is evident that a large part of both passenger and freight traffic would still be handled by ferries.

According to a simple calculation, an undersea tunnel crossing the Gulf of Finland could be realized without hardly any taxpayer money, and the railway tunnel would be an economically viable investment, provided that the EU would support construction with an about 40-percent share of financing. This percentage would be the same as that committed by the EU for the Rödby–Puttgarden tunnel between Denmark and Germany. The EU seeks to create a fast rail network throughout Europe, and a project combining two EU capitals has good opportunities to obtain EU financing.

The prefeasibility study concludes that the tunnel proposal should be investigated further. The further investigation may be carried out within the framework of the FinEst Link project with financing from the EU’s Central Baltic Sea Programme. Project financing will be known in the spring of 2016.


Helsinki–Tallinna tunnel compared to other tunnels

Mobility in the future and the impact of digitization?


Both Helsinki and Tallinn are preparing for future changes in mobility. What kind of changes will digitization bring to the everyday lives of people and businesses? The information produced within the FinEst Link cooperation can be utilized with the help of open data interfaces. It is important to ensure that the information can also be used in cross-border services to benefit development projects, application development, research and future business activities. Estonia and Finland are leading EU countries in the utilization of open data and intelligent solutions. Differences in interfaces or incompatible data should not hinder service development between the countries.

By compiling Finnish-Estonian know-how, it could be possible to turn the cities of Helsinki and Tallinn into an area where to test new, even difficult mobility concepts, as the first area in the EU, with support from and enabled by good cooperation between authorities.

Helsinki-Tallinn – a cross-border metropolitan area ?

Cooperation between Helsinki and Tallinn has a long history. In the 1990’s, the cooperation consisted of concrete exchange of best practices and was carried out closely in all areas of city operations. The cooperation was greatly transformed when Estonia joined the European Union in 2004, which allowed the cities to apply for joint EU financing for their projects. Twin-city themes have often and regularly been introduced to the public dialogue during the 2000’s. The cooperation has produced a book titled Hellinna commissioned from the Demos Helsinki think tank, a collection of articles titled Twin City in Making published by the City of Tallinn, and an OECD report titled Cross-Border Innovation.

The EU-financed project Helsinki-Tallinn Transport and Planning Scenarios (2009–2011) explored the movement of people and goods between Finland and Estonia. The studies of the project made it possible to visualize the cross-border commuting area and provided information on the experiences of entrepreneurs, employees and students in the Helsinki-Tallinn area. The statistical information has offered a new angle and new measuring tools for the cooperation. Information gathering continues, as a large part of the statistics produced either in Estonia or in Finland is not usable as such for Helsinki-Tallinn purposes.

Cross-border operations have become part of everyday life for an increasing number of people in the 2000’s. Movement across the Gulf of Finland plays an increasingly important role in the management of everyday routines both in Helsinki and in Tallinn. Tens of thousands [TU1] of commuters cross between Helsinki and Tallinn every week. A cross-border area can create opportunities to test services and to find solutions, as well as offering experiences from services and solutions in two different kinds of societies.

As national capitals, Helsinki and Tallinn are pioneers in the development of Finland and Estonia, drivers of gross domestic product and innovation hubs. Both cities enable urban lifestyles. Helsinki and Tallinn differ in what they offer to their residents in terms of a living environment, opportunities for entrepreneurship, services and social values. Together the cities could be more than the sum of their population numbers and, if they so wish, the most interesting cross-border area in Europe. However, mobility in the area should be as easy as possible, in order that the area’s competencies could be put to the best possible use