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Tomorrow’s world

A 60-mile tunnel under the sea

Finnish entrepreneur Peter Vesterbacka made his name a decade ago with the hit video game Angry Birds. Now he’s getting more ambitious, says Peter Conradi in The Sunday Times. His dream is a €15bn underwater rail tunnel from his homeland to Estonia. Twice the length of the Channel Tunnel, the Chinese-backed link beneath the Gulf of Finland would cut travel time from two hours on a ferry to 20 minutes.

This is not just an infrastructure project. The tunnel would connect artificial islands scattered across the gulf – like the palm islands of Dubai, but “chilly… with pines rather than palm trees”. The largest would house 50,000 people, with hotels and a conference centre. Shaped like a flower, it would have a lift to take people to the railway station deep beneath the sea. A floating pleasure island off the Estonian coast, smaller and greener, would be used mainly for leisure.

“Like all the best ideas, it’s a bit crazy,” says Vesterbacka. He wants the first trains to run between Helsinki and Tallinn, the capitals of Finland and Estonia, on December 24, 2024. First he will have to convince both countries to overcome their wariness of Beijing: his project will be heavily dependent on Chinese expertise and money.

🦄 Despite having a combined population of less than seven million, Finland and Estonia have created an astonishing number of “unicorns” – start-up companies valued at more than $1bn.