Finland and Norway to explore building Arctic rail link

HELSINKI (Reuters) - Finland and Norway agreed on Friday to explore constructing an Arctic rail link from northern Finland to the Barents Sea coast to develop trade routes and business opportunities in the region.

The proposed link would run from Finland’s northern city of Rovaniemi to Norway’s ice-free deep-water port of Kirkenes, located some 15 km from the border with Russia.

The link would cost around 2.9 billion euros ($3.6 billion) and would open in 2030, the study by the two governments showed.

It would be the first rail connection from a European Union member state to an Arctic Ocean port.

“The Arctic railway is an important European project that would create a closer link between the northern, Arctic Europe and continental Europe. The connection would improve the conditions for many industries in northern areas,” Finnish Minister of Transport and Communications Anne Berner told a news conference.

She said the railway should be linked with the proposed project to build an undersea rail tunnel between Finland and Estonia.

With the tunnel, the railway would also connect with Rail Baltica, a link between Tallinn and Warsaw projected to be completed in 2026.

Last month China, despite being a non-Arctic state, outlined its ambitions to develop Arctic shipping routes.

Reporting by Tuomas Forsell, additional reporting by Terje Solsvik in Oslo, writing by Jussi Rosendahl; editing by David Evans