Arctic railway planned

By Richard High07 May 2009

Sweden and Finland are planning a SEK 5,3 billion (€ 500 million) railway that will link Kaunisvaara and Kolari in the north of Finland and help facilitate the transport of ore from mines near Pajala in northern Sweden, according to the Barents Observer.

Both countries' Rail, Road and Maritime Administrations have contributed to a study that proposes construction of a new railway from Kaunisvaara in Finland to Kolari in Finland. That new railway line will help facilitate the transport of ore from the mines outside Pajala in northern Sweden.

According to plans drawn up by the Rail, Road and Maritime Administrations of both countries, ore will be brought to Kemi in Finland, from where it will be exported. This, said the report, requires upgrading the existing railway line to enable it to cope with the increased weight of the iron ore trucks.

Bengt Niska, head of the municipal council in Pajala, was quoted as saying the project also includes construction of 20 km of new railway line, as well as the modernization of Kemi Port. Mr. Niska also said projected infrastructure development would be a "major boost" to the region.

According to the report, the plans might eventually include Norway. Finland's Minister of Foreign Trade, Paavo Väyrynen, visited Norway last year and met the Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affaires, Jonas Gahr Støre to discuss the proposed construction of a 320 km-long railway line between Kolari and Skibotn in Norway.

The Road, Rail and Maritime study also included an assessment of the use of Narvik in Norway as a sea port for the new railway. Mr. Niska was quoted as saying use of Narvik would be more expensive than using Kalix in Botnia Bay, Finland but that Narvik is ice-free all year round.

However, the study also recommended further assessment of alternative port options.

Finland has already started upgrading its infrastructure in the north of the country. Much of the railway line will be electrified and € 65 million will be spent upgrading the road from Karesuando to Kilpisjarvi on the Finnish-Norwegian border.

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