An entrepreneur behind viral video game Angry Birds is heading up a privately-funded project for an undersea train tunnel between Finland and Estonia.
The two countries have now signed a letter of intent or Memorandum of Understanding, taking the long-discussed plans for the tunnel between their capitals of Helsinki and Tallinn a step closer to reality.
The project is set to be headed by entrepreneur Peter Vesterbacka, who made his fortune from the Angry Birds video game series, and his FinEst Bay Area Development company.
The ambitious project would see two 103-kilometre-long high-speed rail passenger and freight tunnels dug 250 metres under the Gulf of Finland, between Helsinki in the north and Tallinn in the south, making the route the longest undersea tunnel in the world.
The tunnels would be 17 metres in diameter, allowing each one to carry two train lines as well as pipes and conduits for other services if needed.
It is understood that the tunnels would be built at such a width in order to future-proof them for advances in technology, so that they can facilitate new transport systems in the future that do not exist today.
Mr Vesterbacka says the use of 16 plasma boring machines will speed the project along, with completion of the tunnels anticipated as soon as December 2024.
The granite bedrock spoil from the tunnels is also intended to be used to create two artificial islands 15km from each nation's coastline, providing ventilation, access and energy supplies to the tunnels below.
The larger one-square-kilometre island to the north would be transformed into an entertainment centre with train station, shops, businesses and affordable housing.
The project is expected to cost between €15 and 20 billion, and is controversially mainly funded by Chinese backers, amid accusations it is too accommodating of China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
Currently 10,000 Estonians commute every day by ferry to Helsinki for work, in a journey that takes two hours in each direction. Conversely, Finnish tourists frequently visit Tallinn, drawn to its picturesque Old Town and low alcohol prices.
The proposed train journey would slash travel times to just 20 minutes, increasing the exchange of capital between the two cities as well as forging closer social and business ties.