Arctic train line in Nordics would open up polar potential

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Stig Nerdal from Transportutvikling AS and Timo Lohl from the Arctic Corridor project want a railway connection between Rovaniemi and Kirkenes. (Atle Staalesen/Barents Observer)
Stig Nerdal from Transportutvikling AS and Timo Lohl from the Arctic Corridor project want a railway connection between Rovaniemi and Kirkenes. (Atle Staalesen/Barents Observer)
A railway line from northern Finland to the Norwegian Arctic coast will open a new base for industrial development in the Nordic countries, a group of regional industrialists says.

As Nordic governments look at ways to strengthen Arctic cooperation, industrial and business interests in the northern parts of the countries lobby the construction of a grand new railway line.

This is the right time for bold joint intiatives, Finnish and Norwegian company representatives said in a meeting in Kirkenes, Norway, this week.

Gas meets ore

The railway plans come as Arctic sea ice melting opens up new shipping routes and industrial opportunities. A rail link from Finland to the Norwegian Arctic coast will boost transportation of a wide range of goods, among them ores from rich Finnish and Swedish deposits and export commodities from the Baltic countries, project promoters argue. For Norway, the railway can become a “rolling pipeline” for transportation of Norwegian LNG to the European market, Felix Tschudi, CEO of the Tschudi Shipping, said at the meeting.

Tschudi believes that train transportation of LNG might be of interest also for Russian companies, among them Novatek and the Yamal LNG.

He also argues that the railway project, despite a current economic slowdown in Finland, is fully possible as soon as there is necessary political will.

The Kirkenes alternative

Several alternative routes are on the table of the regional rail infrastructure developers, among them to Narvik, Skibotn and to Kirkenes. According to Hannu Hernesniemi, a representative of the Finnish National Emergency Supply Agency, the Kirkenes alternative is the commercially most viable route. The Narvik alternative could run into capacity problems following the expanding activities of the LKAB, while the Skibotn alternative would require the construction of a totally new port, Hernesniemi says.

So far, the Finnish-Norwegian railway project has been promoted primarily by the Finnish side. A report from the Finnish Confederation of Finnish Industries on business opportunities is in the pipeline and is expected to be published in the course of the first half of the year. That work is headed by former Finnish PM Paavo Lipponen and is expected to include also proposals on railway developments in the region.

Much clearly depends on Finland. “Norway will be ready to build as soon as Finland is ready”, Stig Nerdal, initiator of the meeting in Kirkenes, says. His company Transportutvikling is a Norwegian contributor in the project Arctic Corridor.

Related stories from around the North:

Asia: China’s silk road plans could challenge Northern Sea Route, Blog by Mia Bennett

Canada: Report warns more Arctic shipping will increase warming, affect health, Radio Canada International

Finland: New Finland icebreaker can operate sideways with asymmetrical hull, Yle News

Norway: Norway builds cross-border tunnel to Russia, Barents Observer

Russia: Norilsk, Russia – The inescapability of the c ompany town on Russia’s tundra, Blog by Mia Bennett

United States: Time to ramp up Arctic infrastructure in the U.S.,  By Sourabh Gupta & Dr. Ashok K. Roy

 

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Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

For more news from the Barents region visit The Independent Barents Observer.

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