H-T Transplan – better mobility through cooperation

The EU-funded H-T Transplan has helped Helsinki, Finland and Tallinn, Estonia transport authorities better understand traffic flow in order to implement joint mobility solutions to reduce congestion. 

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Researchers found that approximately 14 % of the 8 300 000 annual trips from Tallinn to Helsinki and back were actually travelers heading to and returning from the Helsinki airport. © H-TTransplan Researchers found that approximately 14 % of the 8 300 000 annual trips from Tallinn to Helsinki and back were actually travelers heading to and returning from the Helsinki airport. © H-TTransplan

" The goal of the project is to develop mobility between Helsinki and Tallinn and to improve transport links. The cooperation will also provide the framework for deepening economic co-operation between the two cities, as well as investigating the economic preconditions and impact of the proposed Helsinki-Tallinn railway tunnel. "

Jasmin Etelämäki, Senior Adviser, Mayor’s office, City of Helsinki

With each passing year, the amount of traffic – both passenger and cargo – traveling back and forth between the Helsinki and Tallinn harbours continues to increase. Although this may sound like good news for tourism and the economy, it also creates new challenges for urban planning. As both cities have harbours located in the city centre, this increase in traffic has been a strain on the infrastructure of both Helsinki and Tallinn. However, as the traffic in one city is directly linked to the traffic in the other, in order to come up with a sustainable solution, a cooperative effort was needed. 

The H-T Transplan project addressed this problem head on. Knowing that many people work, study and live both in Estonia and in the Helsinki region of Finland, the project started by mapping the actual flow of people across the Gulf of Finland. From this exercise, researchers gained important insights about traffic flow – an important first step towards developing a solution. For example, they found that approximately 14 % of the 8 300 000 annual trips from Tallinn to Helsinki and back were actually travelers heading to and returning from the Helsinki airport. Knowing this, urban planners could then work on implementing solutions to address this specific traffic flow.    

Cooperative solutions

With information like this in hand, the H-T Transplan project next turned towards implementing solutions. As any successful solution would necessarily involve cooperation from both regions, the project brought together traffic planning authorities from both countries. Following a presentation of the detailed traffic flow map and other related research, the group produced a joint roadmap for further developing traffic-related infrastructure and policies. Many of the proposals have been adopted by regional governments and put into practice. 

For example, based on the project’s recommendations, the Ports of Helsinki and Tallinn formed a joint steering group and launched an ongoing joint harbour development investment fund. The ports have reserved the land area needed to construct an undersea train tunnel that will drastically reduce the amount of boat and vehicular traffic in both cities. Other cross-border initiatives coming from the project include a joint traffic route planner, metered parking services and joint travel pass.

A vision for greatness 

According to project organisers, the H-T Transplan project has developed a vision for the establishment of a Helsinki-Tallinn twin-city regional transport system, one that authorities and stakeholders on both sides of the Gulf of Finland have already started to implement. In fact, the two harbours have already secured over EUR 50 million in funding for infrastructure development. As a result, the project has gone a long ways towards achieving a smoother, sustainable travel connection between the Helsinki and Tallinn harbours.  

Yet although the project provided urban planners with a comprehensive understanding of regional mobility, further studies and action are still required, such as a feasibility study on the undersea rail connection. Most importantly, however, the knowledge platform provided by the H-T Transplan project must be maintained and developed on an ongoing basis. With continued cooperative planning and implementation, Helsinki and Tallinn have the potential of becoming a centre of growth in the Baltic Sea Region.

Total investment and EU funding

Total investment for the project “H-TTransPlan – Helsinki-Tallinn transport and planning scenarios” is EUR 1 236 760, with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributing EUR 979 756 through the “Central Baltic” Operational Programme for the 2007-2013 programming period. The investment falls under the priority “Economically competitive and innovative region”.

Draft date

31/08/2016