Estonia: After a long time in planning, construction of the Estonian track section of Rail Baltica finally starts in 2016.
A direct train for goods and passengers from Berlin, via Warsaw and the Baltic States, through a Baltic Sea tunnel to Helsinki – this is the ambitious goal of the EU Commission and the Baltic States for the Rail Baltica track by 2024.
While other countries’ sections will already be built, work on this major project in Estonia should start in 2016. At the moment, the final details of the exact routing are being negotiated with the counties concerned. But it is already settled that the whole distance will use the mid-European 1.435 mm rails, so the time-consuming change to the 1.524 mm rails used so far will no longer apply. The initially planned max speed limit of 250 km/h is to be reduced for cost and security reasons to 200 km/h, which adds about an hour to the travel time for the whole distance of approx. 950 km.
The overall project cost will amount to – depending on the exact routing – between 3.5 and 4 billion EUR, paid mostly out of EU subsidies. From this amount around one billion is for the Estonian part of the distance. To start with, the trip between Tallinn and Helsinki will be by ferry, until the Baltic Sea tunnel is built. Estimated additional costs for the tunnel are between 2 and 3 billion EUR and with a length of over 50 km, it will be the longest undersea tunnel in Europe.
So it will be worth keeping an eye on this exciting major project with its various business opportunities and hopefully the states, counties and organizations involved will soon come to an agreement on the remaining details.