TRAVEL GAZETTE – The idea of an Arctic corridor is taking shape as a Finnish-Norwegian working group unveiled the plan to extend the existing Finnish railway system to the Arctic Ocean via Norway.
The envisioned route would link Rovaniemi, a Finnish town located on the Arctic Circle, to the port of Kirkenes in northeastern Norway, Finnish Minister of Transport and Communications Anne Berner announced in Helsinki.
At the press conference jointly held with her Norwegian counterpart Ketil Solvik-Olsen through remote video connection, Berner said a task force will continue to work on the details of plan as well as financing of the project.
On his part, Solvik-Olsen assured that Norway wants to continue the “excellent cooperation” with Finland on the railroad plan.
The route was chosen out of five options. Others included more westerly routes crossing Sweden to the Norwegian ports of Narvik or Tromssa, and an easterly route from the Finnish town of Kemijarvi to Russian port of Murmansk.
Berner said Kirkenes was selected as it served best the needs of the logistical position of Finland and the improvement of the supplies safety of Finland.
The cost of the project would be around three billion euros. If the railroad becomes a reality, it could be operational in the 2030s. Berner underlined that the railroad would be a European project.
The working group also investigated the possibility of using high capacity trucks for transport instead of building a railroad along the corridor.
Coupled with a vision to built a tunnel between Helsinki and the Estonian capital of Tallinn, the Arctic corridor would place Finland at the center of an emerging Euro-Asia transportation route that amounts an alternative to the current busy shipping line through the Suez Canal.
Martti Levomaki, director of the Finnish Transport Authority, told the press conference on Friday that current development in the area was not enough to make the Arctic railroad financially profitable, “but even one more mining operation starting could change the situation.”
He also noted that tourism in Lapland may develop from the current seasonal business to all-year operation, and the new railway could be utilized by passenger trains. (1 euro = 1.23 U.S. dollars)