TALLINN - Tallinn could bring its residents a step closer to Helsinki with the introduction of a shared public transport ticketing system. After a year-long feasibility study, researchers have set the conditions which would allow the creation of a single ticket system that spans the Gulf of Finland.
"This is a sign that the cities are becoming closer. We are trying to integrate both counties. In the long run we will have more and more close systems," said Katri-Liis Lepik, manager of Helsinki Tallinn Euregio, a non-profit association jointly established by Estonia and Finland to investigate integration. However, the proposed merger will not take place for another 10 's 15 years time, said Lepik. "We have investigated and analyzed both transport systems, and looked at the project from a legal and conceptual level to understand the challenges that need to be overcome before adopting the same system," Lepik said.
The end result of the project is a feasibility paper that will mark a course for potential integration within 10 - 15 years' time.
She added that systems could be linked by a common paper ticket or a shared ID card. "We need to be ready for the situation when both systems are outdated and need to be renewed."
The Helsinki Tallinn Euregio will finalize its public transport research at the end of the summer to identify the prerequisites for a merged system. A common currency is not one of them, Lepik said. "Having the same currency, such as the euro, is not really necessary, although it would be helpful." She cited the cities of Copenhagen and Malmo 's linked by the Oresund Bridge 's as an example of successful integration. "Without having a tunnel or a bridge, we have a ferry link, and there are so many ferries a day between the two cities," Lepik said. "Right now, people can just cross over on the ferry, and that is it. They cannot continue from the port with the same ticket."
The new system will provide people with smoother transportation when traveling between Helsinki and Tallinn. Authorities will also know how and when people want to move, thereby alowing them to fix the transport schedules according to the needs of the people. The prospect of a merged Helsinki-Tallinn city council was raised in April by Economic Affairs and Communications Minister Edgar Savisaar. He even predicted that the cities would amalgamate within 10 years.
The concept was met with surprise from Finnish politicians, who supported greater integration but not a formal merger.