Transport officials from Finland and Estonia will meet in Helsinki in September in a bid to accelerate agreement on the development of a rail-freight connection between the two countries.
The talks are linked to the broader Rail Baltica project which aims to shift major freight transport in Finland and the Baltic-rim states from road to rail by creating a continuous 950 mile rail freight link for goods travelling between Helsinki and Berlin, including connections to freight hubs in central Europe.
The Helsinki to Berlin rail link would serve freight hubs in Helsinki, Tallinn, Riga, Vilnius and Warsaw. "Rail Baltica is not only important for Finland in terms of market penetration and getting our goods to market in Germany and Central Europe, but connecting to the well established freight-hubs in Germany will improve rail cargo shipments to southern European markets as well," said Finnish prime minister Jyrki Katainen.
The Baltic-rim states of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland reached a joint venture agreement in November 2011 to move the part-EU funded Rail Baltica project forward. The timetable envisages construction starting in 2018, with completion in 2023. For Finland, the Rail Baltica project is focused on creating a rail-freight bridge between the country and Estonia. The three options being considered include the construction of a sub-sea rail freight tunnel under the Gulf of Finland to Estonia at an estimated cost of €1.5 billion.
A rail freight and passenger tunnel is also being examined. This would cost an estimated €42.5 billion. A third option under review is to create a freight bridge between Finland and Estonia supported by cargo-based commercial train-ferry services. For the Baltic states and Poland, meanwhile, the lion’s share of the capital cost in Rail Baltica is tied to the upgrading of the existing Russian gauge track to a western standard.
Talks are part of drive to create 950-mile Helsinki to Berlin rail freight link