Murmansk railway line must be completed, say Russian officials

Radar stations are under construction in the Russian district of Vorkuta and in the Arctic Murmansk region. (iStock)
With construction of the Murmansk Transport Hub having come to a full halt, Russian officials made their case for the project going ahead. (iStock)

As construction of the Murmansk Transport Hub had come to a full halt, top federal officials assembled for a talk in Moscow.

Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Andrey Belousov on the 29th of April summoned several top government officials, state company representatives and regional leaders to a meeting on infrastructure development in Murmansk.

The Murmansk Transport Hub is included as priority in the recently adopted Russian Arctic Strategy, and federal officials are under pressure to meet objectives.

The project includes the building of 46 km of railway along the western shore of the Kola Bay. The new line is to be connected with a new seaport and terminal in Lavna.

However, construction works were halted in early fall 2020 after a contract between company Stroygazconsulting and the Ministry of Transport was terminated.

‘Not ready to abandon the project’

The Lavna terminal was planned to facilitate exports of as much as 18 million tons of coal per year. But major coal shippers ultimately did not sign anticipated agreements with the new terminal. The launch of the coal port, originally scheduled at the end of 2020, may now be postponed indefinitely, newspaper Kommersant reported with reference to inside sources in the coal businesses.

The terminal “will not be”, a company-investor said.

However, the federal government is not ready to abandon the project. In the meeting on Thursday, First Deputy PM Belousov requested the Ministry of Energy and Ministry of Transport to carry out an analysis of the existing plans and projected shipment volumes and “their continued relevance under the current state of affairs in world markets.”

According to the government, the project aims at creating “a well-functioning year-round deep-water maritime hub and center for processing of goods and international transport corridor.” And, according to the participants in this week’s meeting, the plan is still to export more than 18 million tons of goods from the seaport from year 2024.

In the meeting, First Deputy Premier Belousov requested the Ministry of Transport and the State Transport Leasing Company to speed up work on the identification of a technical client for the building of the Lavna terminal.

The talks in Moscow follow a visit to Murmansk by Yevgeny Ditrikh, the Director of the State Transport Leasing Company. During a joint tour at the construction site, the company leader and Murmansk Governor Andrey Chibis underlined that the railway will be completed in 2023.

At the moment, the project is 56,4 percent ready, Chibis explained.

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: Canadian budget fell short on infrastructure, Indigenous leaders say, CBC News

Estonia: Estonian president favorable towards Arctic railway project, cautious about future of Arctic shipping, Eye on the Arctic

Finland: The Arctic Railway – Building a future or destroying a culture?, Eye on the Arctic

Norway: U.S. Navy to build airport infrastructure in North Norway to meet upped Russian submarine presence, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Putin speech takes on social issues, crisis with the West and grand plans for Arctic infrastructure, 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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