Prime Minister Jüri Ratas said on Thursday the proposed rail tunnel linking Tallinn with the Finnish capital, Helsinki, needs to become a reality, by moving forward with the work necessary, including environmental surveys.
"I believe it is an excellent project,'' Mr Ratas said at the weekly government press conference on Thursday.
''There has been very strong interest from the private sector; it also seems to me that the interest of the governments of both countries is growing too," he continued, noting that links between the two countries, including the proposed tunnel, were discussed bilaterally by the two national governments at a sitting earlier this year.
"Since the tunnel has two ends, we have agreed with our Finnish colleagues that we will be advancing with necessary surveys at the same speed on both sides of the water. A four-way coordinating work group has been formed, made up of the city governments of the two capitals and the economic affairs ministries of the two countries. There are upwards of 50 environmental surveys that have to be conducted. So these need to be done before we can take a look at things and move forward," he continued.
"As to the question, could there be a tunnel connection between the two countries some time in the future, if the answer is yes then I believe that work should be done towards it," Mr Ratas said.
On Monday, the finance ministry received a request from FinEst Bay Area Development, a company working on the project, to start procedures for a national designated spatial plan for the tunnel. The ministry is to start analysing whether the tunnel is indeed an object of a national designated spatial plan and if its implementation is possible in the future.
Law firm Sorainen initiated the request, which includes in its plans an artificial island, on behalf of FinEst Bay Area Oy, headed up by Finnish marketer Peter Vesterbacka.
FinEst announced on Monday that Dubai construction company ARJ Holding is stumping up €100 million towards the project, estimated at a total cost of €15 billion. The company has four options for the route, including FinEst Link, lawyer Paul Kunnap of Sorainen told the Baltic News Service on Monday.
FinEst has also submitted a request to the Estonian Technical Regulatory Authority to start procedures for getting a building permit for the tunnel and the artificial island.
The national designated spatial plan initiation is mainly aimed at comprehensively solving issues related to the rail tunnel both under- and over-ground, principally concerning the most suitable route.
Editor: Andrew Whyte