It is not such a long time since I wrote a first piece titled “Wasting Money”, in which I was mainly dealing with rail traffic projects, also shortly mentioning the project of a railway tunnel to Tallinn.
And just about the tunnel to Tallinn there have been rather recently a few events: on Friday 22.03. there was a public discussion about the project in the “Metropolia University of Applied Sciences” (in Myllypuro/Helsinki), and on Tuesday 26.03. there was in HBL an insändare by Peter Rehnström with the title “Vill dagens båtresenärer till Tallinn faktiskt åka i en tågtunnel i stället?”.
I was attending the event in Metropolia, and I thought it horrifying. It was Peter Westerbacka who was, together with a number of members of the team which he has obviously got together for his project of a ready tunnel by Christmas 2024, giving a very impressive performance in support of his project. The whole event happened in Metropolia’s biggest lecture room in front of a quite big audience, and I do not really know whether the event was intended to be a support for Westerbacka’s project or rather a teaching demonstration how one should proceed when trying to promote anything quite in general (perhaps the organizers had both possibilities in mind). Anyway a docent of Metropolia’s staff was supporting Westerbacka strongly and from the very beginning, and Westerbacka himself presented a veritable firework of rhetoric, talking and talking and talking more, brushing aside objections with “reasons” which did not keep up to even 2 min of consideration (but during those 2 min Westerbacka had already talked much further …). And certainly there came hardly any objections from the audience (although one might, from an institution which calls itself a “university”, have expected more critical thoughts …). Westerbacka’s intention is anyway to spend something like 15 000 mio Euro on building the tunnel, relying mostly on Chinese investors (and I thought it remarkable that there was not any Chinese visible at least in the front rows of the lecture room), and during his presentation he was promising really marvelous future developments for the whole Helsinki-Tallinn region, in language as well as style of presentation reminding VERY much of some (desperate?) travelling salesman. And once he had finished, the audience was encouraged to come and meet him for “networking”. Which rather many also seemingly tried.
I had been one of the VERY few who had voiced any doubts about the project, and I still think that the Chinese investors may well end up feeling cheated out of their money (which might not increase their willingness to invest in Finland in any further future). And it is with a certain satisfaction that I find that Peter Rehnström in his letter to HBL is (much more expert-like than me) very much supporting my doubts. To which i should still like to add one point: Westerbacka’s promises of a brilliant future were seemingly based on the idea that Helsinki airport is THE “springboard to the Far East” (or the Far East’s gate to Europe) and that this fact, together with Finland’s world best education system, its clean nature and clean air, etc. would attract masses of students and specialists. But what if one thinks of the situation that Finland would join NATO and be stupid enough to let itself be built up into a power hostile to Russia (corresponding to the wishes of at least two Finnish political parties)? Might it happen that Russia could in such a situation forbid its airspace to traffic from Helsinki (perhaps in addition building St. Petersburg airport up to be a springboard to the Far East)? In such a case the tunnel to Tallinn might end up as an impressive failed investment (which it might ANYWAY be), with 15 000 mio Euro largely lost … .
One trouble with such a tunnel is that, once it has turned out to be a failed investment, it is not possible to take it elsewhere to be used in a more fitting place. If one would, instead of building a tunnel, begin with a shuttle traffic by airship and wait a bit to see how it develops, one could, if the business does not develop to satisfaction, take the airships elsewhere. Just airships would have the advantage that they are rather fast (and can be made clearly faster stillby means of some known aerodynamic tricks), do not need runways, and can be driven by electricity. And if it should turn out that airships are unable to handle the masses of willing passengers one could try my (meanwhile rather often mentioned) suggestion of developing the Aerobus system into a fitting system for traffic not only between Helsinki and Tallinn but between very many other places where cities are separated by difficult terrain or bodies of rather shallow water (between Helsinki and Tallinn the water is hardly anywhere deeper than 50 meters). Meaning altogether, that it is a better idea to invest large amounts of money (IF one has such) into the development of traffic systems which can be applied in more than one place and are cheaper to build than just a tunnel.