Helsinki-Tallinn tunnel secures 100 million euro funding from Dubai

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HELSINKI (Reuters) – An undersea train tunnel project to link Helsinki with the Estonian capital Tallinn has raised 100 million euros ($114 million) of funding from Dubai-based construction company ARJ Holding, the company running the project said on Monday.

The world’s longest undersea rail tunnel between Finland and Estonia could cost up to 20 billion euros and has yet to secure backing from the two governments and the European Union.

That hasn’t stopped the “FinEst Bay Area” project, led by Peter Vesterbacka, a former executive at Angry Birds game maker Rovio <ROVIO.HE>, from starting planning and environmental studies for the project. It is also seeking funding from around the world.

“To have the first external funding is a significant step for the whole project…The Helsinki-Tallinn area will in the future be one of the fastest-growing metropoles in Europe,” Vesterbacka told a news conference.

Finland and Estonia have for years considered linking their capitals, which are divided by the Gulf of Finland.

A feasibility study commissioned by the two governments and published last year said the planned 100-km (60-mile) tunnel could open in 2040 but Vesterbacka said the tunnel would be built by 2024.

“That is the plan and there is no reason to believe otherwise,” he said.

Tens of thousands of Estonians work in the Helsinki area, making the weekly commute by sea, while Tallinn is a popular tourist destination for Finns. A tunnel would cut the travel time to around 20 minutes from the 2-hour ride on a fast ferry now.

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