Friday 22 March 2024 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Friday. 22/3/2024

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

On track? The Helsinki-Tallinn rail link faces obstacles

Image: Shutterstock

Transport / Petri Burtsoff

Tunnel vision

Developers behind the planned undersea rail link connecting Helsinki and Tallinn are undeterred by the hurdles that it faces. The railway, which was expected to open this year but has been rescheduled for 2030, will be supported by Chinese investors and built using Chinese technology. If completed, the 103km-long tunnel would be the world’s longest undersea train line. The project, however, has been criticised for its heavy reliance on Beijing. Despite the 2021 memorandum of understanding that Finland and Estonia would co-operate on the tunnel, the permit process has stalled.

The economic benefits are obvious: a 2018 feasibility study showed that the tunnel would break even on the €15bn investment needed for its construction in just 17 years. The link would also connect Helsinki to Europe by rail for the first time, cutting the journey to the Estonian capital from about two hours to less than 30 minutes. The project would use the same track gauge as Rail Baltica, a train line currently under construction between Tallinn and Warsaw.

Yet relying on China is a risky strategy, not only because of Finland and Estonia’s Nato membership but also because of Beijing’s close ties with Russia. Entrusting key infrastructure to an authoritarian – and increasingly bullish – superpower is not wise. It shouldn’t be impossible to find private funding for a project with such clear economic potential. Perhaps some ambitious lobbying in Brussels by Finnish and Estonian diplomats is also needed.

Petri Burtsoff is Monocle’s Helsinki correspondent. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

The Briefings

Everything under the sun: The Swiss National Bank lowers interest rates

Economy / Switzerland

Cutting edge

The use of the term “cost of living crisis” has increased in recent years as a result of global inflation caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine. But this upward trend might soon end: the Swiss National Bank (SNB) has loosened its fiscal controls and lowered its interest rate from 1.75 per cent to 1.5 per cent.

The surprise decision is the SNB’s first rate cut in nine years. The Bank of England and US Federal Reserve have both kept their rates on hold, while the European Central Bank has also remained cautious, signalling that it will consider a rate cut in June – but only if inflation continues its downward trend.

Media / USA

Press for change

Two major US newspaper publishers have announced that they are ending their partnership with the Associated Press (AP) amid financial pressures in the news industry. Gannett and McClatchy, whose portfolio includes more than 230 titles, including USA Today and the Miami Herald, stated that they would no longer pay for AP’s journalism services. Gannett owner New Media Investment Group said that the money saved would be reinvested into its own newsrooms. But some are skeptical about this claim. Until now, AP’s services have helped to fill the gaps at companies with limited editorial resources. For AP, however, the effect on the business will be minimal. The company’s recent move to diversify its business model means that newsroom subscriptions only account for 10 per cent of its annual revenue.

In full bloom: Design Shenzhen

Design / China

Reality tech

The second edition of Design Shenzhen kicked off yesterday and will run until 24 March. More than 250 global brands and installations are exhibiting at the four-day event, which encompasses everything from furniture and lighting to the potential uses of artificial intelligence. This year’s theme, “The Fusion of Design and Technology”, explores the growing role of technology in the design industry, with Shenzhen – a hi-tech hub that’s home to many of China’s most innovative companies – as the backdrop for these discussions.

The event will include talks and panel discussions from speakers including Satoshi Ohashi, China director for Zaha Hadid Architects, and exhibiting brands such as Samsung and De’Longhi. Design Shenzhen debuted last year and functions as a prelude to its established sister show, Design Shanghai, which will take place in June.

Beyond the Headlines

Photo of the week / Milan

Room with a pew

This week’s picture, by photographer Jamie McGregor Smith, shows the interiors of the Church of Saint Nicholas of Flüe in Milan. It is on show this week at Sacred Modernity, a larger exhibition of his work in Vienna. The photos are part of a multi-year study by Smith, who captured a selection of European postwar churches to showcase how their modernist architecture blends in with traditional ecclesiastical design.

Image: Carleen Coulter

Lauren Oyler

Cultural critic and novelist Lauren Oyler’s essays and reviews have caused a stir online. She joins Robert Bound in the studio to discuss her new book of essays, No Judgement. Oyler muses on gossip, Goodreads, expat life in Berlin and her experience of trying ‘jaw yoga’ to ease her anxiety-fuelled teeth-grinding.


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