Katainen: Railway to Arctic Ocean is a great opportunity

It was a smiling Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen that met with BarentsObserver after the opening session of the Arctic conferance in the City Hall of Rovaniemi.

ROVANIEMI: Finland’s Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen says it must be a priority to find out to which port, Norwegian or Russian, a possible railway from Lapland could be built. If profitable.


“It is for Finland’s future development a very significant opportunity, but we do not yet know whether it is profitable,” says Jyrki Katainen.

He wants a connection to Norway to be studied, but also mentioned that another possible variant could be a link to the Arctic Ocean via Russia.

The Finnish Prime Minister answered questions about the rail connection between Lapland and the Arctic Ocean at the press-conference following the opening of an Arctic scientific conference in Rovaniemi on Tuesday.

€3,2 billion 
“A railway link from Rovaniemi to Kirkenes will cost some €3,2 billion,” says Timo Rautajoki, CEO of Lapland Chamber of Commerce. He gave a speech about Lapland’s development in the session on Arctic in a global economy.

Lapland holds rich ore-deposits and new mines are already under development some 150 kilometers north of Rovaniemi. From Rovaniemi to the Norwegian Arctic port of Kirkenes is a distance of 520 kilometers.

“Connecting the new mining areas north of Sodankylä with the railway today going to Rovaniemi will cost some €350 million,” says Rautajoki. He supports the idea to connect Finland with a Norwegian port with a railway, but underlined the economic challenge.

“Finland has no money, so we should find other ways to finance such railway.”

Via Salla to Murmansk
Two alternative harbors in Norway are Skibotn in Troms and Kirkenes on the coast to the Barents Sea. Another possibility is a railway from Finland over Salla with connection to the existing Russian rail network to Murmansk, Russia’s main ice-free port in the north.

Access to Arctic Ocean means a shortcut to markets in Asia via the Northern Sea Route where traffic this season is up 50 percent compared with last year.

Leading expertise in winter navigation
“For the Finnish economy, the Arctic region – Russia and Norway in particular – represent a growing market in which Finland enjoys a natural competitive edge,” said Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen to the audience at the Arctic conference.

He also sees a huge market for Finland as shipping in the Arctic increases.

“Finland has long traditions and leading expertise in winter navigation. Finnish ice-reinforced vessels have been operating for years in the Arctic, including the North-East Passage. Finland aims to become a leading expert in the Arctic maritime industry and shipping. Finnish companies are already actively involved in projects to develop Arctic sea areas. Finland also manufactures advanced, state-of-the-art Arctic ice-breakers,” said Jyrki Katainen.

Safe Arctic shipping
Environmental issues and concerns were actively debated among the 250 participants discussing the future of the Arctic in Rovaniemi. For shipping in the Arctic, Katainen thinks Finland can make a difference. 

“Finland is in a position to offer new types of services to facilitate safe transportation and contribute to the preservation of the marine environment. Finland has first-rate expertise in mechanical oil recovery in icy conditions – a technology that is vital to Arctic sea areas.”