Timber train in Karelia, Finland. Photo: AFP
Timber train in Karelia, Finland. Photo: AFP

Finnish Transport and Communications Minister Anne Berner has confirmed that a survey is underway to explore the feasibility of building a railway between Rovaniemi, Finland and Kirkenes, Norway that could serve as an Arctic gateway for China’s Belt and Road project.

“International cooperation is key,” Berner reportedly told High North News.

“We have started a cooperation with Norwegian authorities on investigating the profitability and potential for building the Arctic Railway. The purpose of the project is to survey potential railway lines and arrive at a potential business model,” High North News quoted Berner as saying.

She noted that recent talks between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin have provided momentum for the project.

“The initiative of the Chinese President Xi Jinping in discussions with the Russian (President) about proceeding with the plans for the Northern Sea Route in order to realize an ‘ice-Silk Road’ and creating various connection projects is considered positive,” Berner says.

She says the Northern Sea Route and the infrastructure linking Asia to Europe must be further developed.

“International cooperation plays a key role when doing research into navigation routes, climate and environmental changes in the Arctic. The Northern Sea Route must be considered a transport connection that complements land-based railway routes and the Suez Canal,” Berner reportedly said.

Asia Times reported earlier this year that a group of Finnish business leaders and academics have proposed building a US$3.4 billion “Arctic Corridor” railway that would connect Northern Europe with China and Arctic Ocean deep-water ports. The rail link would connect the city of Rovaniemi in northern Finland with the Norwegian port of Kirkenes on the Barents Sea.

Ships could move goods from China as well as oil and gas from Arctic fields in Russia westwards along the Northern Sea Route to Kirkenes. Cargos would be offloaded to the railway and sent southward through rail connections to Scandinavia, Helsinki, the Baltic states and the rest of Europe.

Norway’s transport minister said earlier this week that he’s “very positive” towards the Finnish plan for an Arctic rail link between the two countries.

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