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Arctic rail link via Narvik gains ground in Finland
Published : 12 Aug 2019, 00:05
Finland is preparing to create a rail connection to the Arctic Sea via Sweden and Norway.
Local media reported on Sunday that even though the program of the current left-center government has no mention of the Arctic rail connection, a plan to electrify the railroad track near the Swedish border has been included.
The plan to electrify the tracks bordering Sweden is to improve the connection which reaches the Arctic port of Narvik in Norway, media reported.
The connection via Sweden to Narvik was one of the original plans drafted in a joint Finnish-Norwegian civil servant report published earlier this year. However, in the report, the main attention was given to a fairly direct connection from Kirkenes in Norway southwards to Rovaniemi and the Finnish railroad system.
In the report, the required investment was deemed to be economically unprofitable, with a view to foreseeable freight and passenger loads. However, the report left the plans open for eventual development in the future.
Besides the Kirkenes-Rovaniemi alternative, routes via Russian territory to Murmansk and via Norway either to Tromassa or Narvik were also in the original considerations.
Suomen Keskusta (Centre Party of Finland) MP Anne Kalmari, who was in the transport sector working group preparing the government program, told Sunnuntaisuomalainen, a joint Sunday supplement of several Finnish newspapers, that the electrification plan was adopted in May this year "specifically as a replacement" for the seemingly faltered plan about a direct connection to the Arctic Sea.
In the original program, the Narvik alternative was actually the cheapest solution. "It would only require electrification on the segments that do not have electricity now," it stated. The track already exists, and it connects the town of Haaparanda on the Finnish-Swedish border, and reaches out via Kiruna (Sweden) to Narvik, Norway.
The rail width in Finland differs from that in Sweden or Norway. Local media said that it remains unclear to what extent it would be possible to build double rails. A reloading of freight along the way would not be cost-effective.
When the Finnish government showed no immediate interest in the Kirkenes route, the regional Lapland development authority hired a Finnish company associated with the Helsinki-Tallinn tunnel plan to promote the direct alternative.
A representative of the FinEstBayArea Development on Sunday told media that the emergence of the Narvik route does not alter their plans. He said the company will release further plans of the direct route in the autumn.
The rail connection has been justified on account of the increased Arctic freight and the role of Finland as a transit location between continental Europe and east Asia.
The northern province of Lapland has been looking forward to benefit from the Arctic Silkroad, an initiative raised by China and Russia to enhance the connectivity along the Arctic Sea.