Port of Oslo

Moving Beyond Ferries

Gretchen Ushakova
Strategic Communications

Two Hyperloop One Global Challenge semifinalist proposals look to bridge waterways and connect economies in Europe.

Europeans have long been seafarers, pioneering vessels to ferry goods and passengers across the waterways that surround the continent. However, the seas that separate Europe continue to create economic and social divides between nations. High-speed transport connections can break down these barriers and help European nations create stronger economic and social ties.

Nowhere has this been more apparent than the creation of the Channel Tunnel between the UK and France. A study by Ernst and Young pegged the annual economic impact of the tunnel to the UK at £91.4bn per year, representing a quarter of all UK trade in goods with the European Union. The implementation of the tunnel has led to £1.7 billion in additional tourism revenue, accounts for 30% of UK exports, and added 220,000 jobs to the economy.

Given the magnitude of the Channel Tunnel’s impact, it is no surprise that other European countries bound by seas are looking to a future where ambitious transportation plans can bring them closer. At the Hyperloop One Vision for Europe event, two semifinalist teams, Corsica-Sardinia and Helsinki-Tallinn, shared their plans to bridge physical divides with Hyperloop.

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Part three in a series highlighting proposed European routes from the Hyperloop One Global Challenge. Prior posts featured the German and UK routes.

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Creating “Tal-sinki”

Although Helsinki can be glimpsed on a clear day from the top of Tallinn's tall towers, the two capitals of Finland and Estonia are separated by a two-hour boat ride and 90 km (56 miles) of cold sea. The proposed Estonia-Finland Hyperloop route would cut the ride to 8 minutes, city-center to city-center.

The proposed Hyperloop route would be 22 minutes shorter than a proposed high-speed rail corridor between the two countries and would be cheaper to build. Hyperloop One systems are two-thirds the cost of high-speed rail as they require less land and are cheaper to construct and operate. While both projects would require expensive underwater tunneling, Hyperloop One system tunnels will cost significantly less than high-speed rail tunnels and have greater advantages. A single high-speed rail tunnel is large in diameter and is built to house one train at a time. A Hyperloop One system requires a much smaller tunnel bore. As a comparison, a single high-speed rail tunnel could house a two-way Hyperloop One system.

“We are already connected, Finland and Estonia, but it takes too much time to merge the two cities into one city.  We have a double city today but we want to make it one city,” said Stanislav Popkov, Architect and Estonia-Finland Hyperloop Project Manager.

After the fall of the Soviet-era bloc, Estonia’s success as a leading country in Central and Eastern Europe has benefited from its strong relationship with Finland. Over 8 million people cross the Gulf of Finland on ferries every year, 60,000 Estonians take the trip weekly. The Hyperloop route would create the ability for the two countries to be separated by the distance of a metro stop, enabling easy commutes and helping businesses to attract top talent and additional customers.

“A lot of Estonians go to work in Finland and a lot of Finns come to work in Estonia. For this labor market to work in a coherent way it is really important to have this infrastructure in place,” said Marten Kaevats, National Digital Advisor, Government Office of Estonia. “I think Estonia and Finland both have a good skill set of people and community and the right mindset to actually make it happen.”

The proposed route would also have a significant impact on real estate development in Tallinn. It is three times more expensive to live in Helsinki than Tallinn, according to the proposal authors. Hyperloop could enable individuals and businesses to choose where to locate and alleviate pressure on Helsinki’s competitive real estate market.

Hyperloop could ease the movement of goods and freight in the region, too. Cargo traffic between Finland and Estonia is expected to grow from 23 million tons in 2014 to 50 million tons by 2080 according to Talsinkifix. Tallinn has strong transportation links with other regional cities including Riga, Vilnius, Warsaw, and St. Petersburg, and can aid in transporting goods from Finland to Russia, Central Europe, and Scandinavian countries.

Ultimately, this Hyperloop segment could link to the proposed Helsinki-Stockholm Hyperloop route put forth by FS Links. The two projects collectively could enable journeys between Tallinn to Stockholm via Helsinki in under 40-minutes and could have a transformative impact on the region.

“Right now Finland is currently isolated from the European railway network,” said Janne Ruponen, Mechanical Engineer, Estonia-Finland Hyperloop Delegation. “This link could serve as the first metro system link between the two capitals and will change completely the future of how we see cities or megaregions.”   

 Hyperloop One Global Challenge semifinalists representing the Estonia-Finland route.

Connecting Twin Islands

The island nations of Corsica and Sardinia are separated by a 20 km (12 miles) patch of the Mediterranean Sea. But, the transportation inefficiencies have led to economic disadvantages between the two countries with greater investment, infrastructure, and economic opportunity in Sardinia than its northern neighbor.

The Corsica-Sardinia Hyperloop route, proposed by the Corsican investment company FemuQui, looks to bridge both the economic and geographic divide between the two island nations creating one holistic economy.

"The Governments of Sardinia and Corsica have decided to support this idea because it is a revolutionary idea that is able to modify the geography and probably the history (of the two islands) too,” said Massimo Deiana, Assessore/Minister, Government of Sardinia, on behalf of President Pigliaru and President Simeoni. "We can start a new era because we are speaking about a new system, a new way of thinking about distances and moving people and things".

The proposed route would stretch from the northern capital of Bastia to the southern capital of Cagliari with stops throughout both islands, ultimately connecting two million inhabitants in under 40-minutes.

The economic and social connections of the route would be profound and could boost tourism opportunities, ease the movement of freight, and connect the island’s disparate infrastructure. 

The beautiful beaches and pink granite inlets of the islands drew 15 million tourists in 2015. Given the challenges of traveling between islands, tourists often choose to only visit one island. To visit both takes 16-20 hours for a round trip journey (including transfer and waiting times) by car, ferry, or plane according to the proposal. Connecting both islands would create a seamless travel experience which would boost tourism and the ability to create a common brand between the two islands. 

In 2015, 45 million of tons of maritime freight goods passed through the ports of Cagliari and Bastia according to the proposal. A 40-minute connection between the ports and inland centers would shift the trade routes of the islands. The northern port of Cagliari would have an extended access to north Mediterranean trade centers and Bastia would be able to lessen its dependency on French trade. As a result, the proposal asserts that consumer prices on the island would fall dramatically, improving the purchasing power of Corsican consumers. 

Hyperloop One Global Challenge semifinalists representing the Corsica-Sardinia route meet with members of the Hyperloop One team.

The inhabitants of Corsica would have better access to healthcare services as Sardinia has 10 hospitals while Corsica has only 3. Additionally, the proposal foresees creating a university network of more than 45,000 students between the two countries and its three universities creating a critical mass for teaching, research and student exchanges.

Marten Kaevats from the Estonia-Finland delegation summed up the Hyperloop opportunity ahead for countries like Estonia and other European nations. “The most interesting thing is the cultural and mind shift change that this technology brings us. Meaning a more connected world, more open, and more coherent. The spatial behavior of people will start changing rapidly to something completely different.”