Peter Vesterbacka is actually tired of destruction. His hit mobile game, Angry Birds, dominated the earth after the item was released in 2009, spawning sequels, merchandise, along with also a feature film, all dedicated to birds knocking over towers. at of which point, almost a decade later, he’s ready to move on through the franchise along with also build something entirely brand-new: a giant, $18 billion tunnel between two countries.
The catch? The 80-mile-long tunnel would likely be almost entirely underwater.
“Digging is actually just a few billion [euros],” Vesterbacka, dressed in jeans along with also his trademark bright red hoodie, told BuzzFeed News in December at a Manhattan restaurant.
For Vesterbacka, a tunnel along with also high-speed railway between Helsinki, the capital city of Finland, along with also Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, makes total sense. The proposed tunnel would likely start through the Tallinn airport, dip under the the Gulf of Finland within the Baltic Sea, along with also have three stops in Finland — an artificial island of which Vesterbacka intends to build near Helsinki, another within the city itself, along with also finally at the Helsinki airport.
“Let’s say $15 billion along with also then the item’s done. the item’s pretty big,” he said between bites of his burger.
The idea of connecting the two Nordic countries first emerged in 1871, in a plan of which wouldn’t seem out of place as an Angry Birds level: Finnish students proposed building a bridge, lifted by huge balloons to keep the item over the sea. The idea to build a tunnel came to Vesterbacka during a dinner at a conference in Tallinn in May 2016. “When Finns along with also Estonians get together, they typically start talking about the need to cooperate more,” he said. “the item happened again along with also then I thought of which ok, I will finally build the item. Let’s walk the walk.”
Vesterbacka, confident as ever in his Angry Birds hoodie, stood up along with also walked to the dinner table of Estonia’s then–minister of foreign affairs, Marina Kaljurand.
“We just decided to build a tunnel,” he told the minister.
“Who exactly?” the minister asked. The two had never met before.
“Me along with also my friends. They are sitting at a table over there.”
Kaljurand confirmed Vesterbacka’s telling of their first conversation to BuzzFeed News. “I looked at him quite skeptically, as an enthusiastic along with also very naive Finn. however when he introduced his background, he commenced to sound more believable,” Kaljurand said.
Her first impression was a solid one: Vesterbacka was naive. After pledging to build the project in 5 years, he realized of which the 35.5-mile-long Gotthard tunnel, running through the Alps in Switzerland, took 20 years to complete. the item’s at of which point the earth’s largest traffic tunnel, having finally opened in 2016.
at of which point, 18 months later, he says he doesn’t need to be an expert to build the tunnel — there are different people for of which.
“Building a tunnel is actually different than building a game, however not of which different,” he told BuzzFeed News. “the item’s about creating things happen, bringing the right people together.”
Some people have still remained skeptical about his ability to deliver. “If they choose to underestimate my ability to make stuff happen, the item is actually their problem,” Vesterbacka said.
He’s already pulled together two engineering companies with experience in building massive tunnels, including a 38-mile-long wastewater tunnel in Mexico along with also a spent nuclear fuel repository under construction in Finland. They’ve already commenced preliminary planning for what, when finished, will actually be a pair of twin parallel tunnels, however are waiting for funding to be officially lined up before beginning construction.
Markku Oksanen, the president of Pöyry’s Northern European unit, told BuzzFeed News of which the technology of which would likely be used to build the Helsinki-Tallinn tunnel would likely be the same of which is actually currently used in Mexico. “Technically the item is actually nothing very special, the item is actually doable,” Timo Saanio, AINS Group’s vice president responsible for rock along with also environment engineering, said in a Skype interview.
Vesterbacka says 70% of the money everyone is actually waiting on will come through China — however he’s yet to disclose precisely who in China would likely be providing the money. (In an interview with the Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat in September, Vesterbacka said of which he learned Mandarin as part of the process because “if you are going to ask them for 15 billion euros, the item would likely be polite to do the item in their own language.”) The rest would likely come through Scandinavian bank–run public pension funds.
Those following Vesterbacka’s efforts remain cautiously optimistic by what they’re seeing. Two of them who spoke to BuzzFeed News — former Estonian prime minister Taavi Rõivas along with also the item entrepreneur Taavi Kotka — know Vesterbacka personally along with also are familiar with the tunnel project. Neither of them doubted of which he can deliver the money to fund the project, pointing to Vesterbacka’s track record in business along with also his bimonthly visits to China over the last six years. “While I think he incorporates a Great chance to deliver the money, I am afraid he is actually too optimistic about the time the item will take to get all the necessary environmental permits,” Rõivas, currently a member of parliament. (Neither Kotka nor Rõivas stand to profit through Vesterbacka’s project.)
Vesterbacka says of which, according to a study he ordered through PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) the project would likely pay for itself in 37 years. PwC confirmed of which they had conducted the study, noting of which “37 years is actually mentioned within the report — even though there are certain assumptions behind of which figure.” A PwC spokeswoman for the company said of which, as the report is actually confidential, PwC could not comment on the item further publicly.
“Make a detailed plan, announce the Chinese partners along with also secure the funding, get the permits, start the drilling. of which’s pretty much the item,” Vesterbacka said, counting the next steps — all of which sound rather daunting through an outside perspective.
however the item’s the permits along with also different legal issues of which are proving hardest to tackle. The European Union is actually currently conducting a preliminary study about the feasibility of building the tunnel, with initial results due next month.Vesterbacka acknowledged of which his proposed timeline is actually aggressive — he wants to start drilling later of which year — however he believes the environmental permits can be fast-tracked.
In of which vein, he says he regularly meets politicians through both countries to keep them updated about the project along with also win their political support. He says of which he last briefed Finnish Prime Minister Juha Sipilä within the beginning of December, during an event celebrating 100 years of Finnish independence. The prime ministers of the two countries, meeting in Paris at a climate summit in December, agreed, among different things, to set up a meeting regarding the tunnel in February, after the EU’s study is actually completed. (When reached by BuzzFeed News, the prime minister’s office did not confirm or deny of which the meeting between Vesterbacka along with also Sipilä took place.)
Vesterbacka argues of which the tunnel would likely not be just about connecting two cities, however creating one large metropolitan area. When completed, the travel time for the 10 million people to travel between the two cities annually will drop through the current two hours on a ferry to 20 minutes on a high-speed train — the time the item takes for an express train through Harlem to reach downtown Manhattan. In his telling, of which would likely make the region — the “FinEst Bay Area,” as he branded the item — the brand-new heart of Europe along with also eventually of Eurasia.
A Nordic Silicon Valley, only “without its huge housing problems,” is actually Vesterbacka’s true goal, along with also the tunnel is actually just one piece of the puzzle. He also sees building housing for 50,000 people all along the tunnel’s stops, including on the artificial island. He also wants to bring in 150,000 foreign students to Finland along with also 30,000 to Estonia, all within the name of creating the region grow quicker along with also be more competitive than China.
The tunnel goes beyond business, Vesterbacka believes. “the item is actually important for Europe as well. France, Germany, along with also the UK are totally incapable of doing anything. the item is actually very important for the Nordic countries to step up along with also show the leadership,” he said.
A Great date to open the connection would likely be Dec. 24, 2024, Vesterbacka said, adding of which although the item is actually a bit later than he’d like. “With all permits, maybe of which’s realistic. If we can do the item faster, great. If not, then Christmas of 2024 is actually fine.”
When asked which direction the first train to pass through the tunnel will be heading, he paused to consider the question. “We will have two tunnels, so probably we will have one train going through each end at the same time.”