A passenger boarding a train in Tampere in January 2021. Operations on a proposed high-speed rail link between Tampere and Helsinki could take 330 years to compensate for the climate impact of the infrastructure project, suggests an assessment conducted by the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Transport and Communications. (Emmi Korhonen – Lehtikuva)

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THREE RAILWAY PROJECTS afoot in Finland would have both an enormous price tag and massive carbon footprint, concludes an assessment conducted by the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Transport and Communications.

On the drawing board are plans to build high-speed rail links between Helsinki and Tampere, Helsinki and Turku, and Helsinki and Kouvola.

The ministries stated last week that carrying out the projects would necessitate considerable investments from the public sector as other sources of financing, such as operator and user fees, would be relatively insignificant relative to the necessary investment. Although private investors have also expressed their interest in such projects, they would likely require guarantees from the state, meaning the risks would ultimately be shouldered by the public sector.

The Helsinki—Tampere link is tentatively estimated to cost 4–5.5 billion euros, the Helsinki—Turku link 3.4 billion euros and the Helsinki—Kouvola link 1.8 billion euros.

The Ministry of Finance on Tuesday reminded that the cost estimates contain notable uncertainties in part because the projects are at different stages of implementation and in part because of reasons linked to the global economy, rate of inflation, interest rates and development of passenger volumes.

“When assessing the cost the large rail projects would impose on the public sector, it is also necessary to take into account that the project implementation has many possible effects, including environmental, socio-economic and broader economic effects, that should also be weighed up in conjunction with the possible investment decision,” its press release reads.

Assessments carried out by the ministries also reveal that emissions created in the construction phase would account for a substantial share of the total climate impact of the projects. Assuming the use of existing construction materials and methods, the emission reductions arising from the operations would suffice to compensate for the emissions in 140–330 years.

It is possible, however, that technological innovations could reduce the estimate climate impact significantly, the ministries gauged.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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