The Trans-European railway Rail Baltica, linking Helsinki, Tallinn, Riga, Kaunas and Warsaw and continuing on to Berlin, would be a valuable new route to Central Europe for companies operating in Finland, according to Dr Esko Passila from Preston University Finland. The final decision about building Rail Baltica will be made by Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in 2015 and the project could be completed by 2021.
Rail Baltica is one of the priority projects of the European Union's Trans-European Transport Networks (TEN-T) and its current cost estimate is EUR 3.7 billion. The length of the railway between Warsaw and Tallinn will be about 950km. The link with Helsinki will be operated by commercial ferries, but there is also a proposal for a tunnel under the Gulf of Finland linking the two cities in the future.
With sea transport due to face increased costs as a result of the EU's Sulphure Directive, Rail Baltica can provide a competitive alternative logistical route, according to Olli Keinänen, Deputy Head of International Relations at the City of Helsinki. “Rail Baltica is a strategically important project for the City of Helsinki. It is significant for the accessibility of the whole of Finland,” says Keinänen, who is working on the project for the city.
According to the EU, the economic integration of Baltic States and Poland with Western Europe is leading to growing trade and traffic. Well furnished and sustainable transportation links therefore promote economic growth and integration. The EU is expected to provide the bulk of the funding for the construction of the Rail Baltica link, according to Keinänen.