A railway between Kirkenes, Norway and Rovaniemi, Finland has long been an alternative to the Norwegian National Transportation Plan. – It has a new reality now, says Torbjørn Naima, Regional Manager of the Norwegian Public Road Administration. He also warrants a more coherent transportation plan for the High North.
- The railway project got a new reality when the Finnish Minister of Transport and Communcations Anne Berner recently wrote to the Norwegian government, asking for cooperation in developing a railway connection between Kirkenes, Norway and Rovaniemi, Finland. Norway has more or less said that we are in should there be a specific initiative from the Finnish side, Naimak says.
He says it is exciting to watch what happens with issues of cross-border infrastructure and road network connections in the High North.
- We are involved in access to the new port in Kirkenes, which may end up being the end destination for the railway. And we have taken that into account planwise; created space, areas and made sure it will be possible to access from both roads and railway, Naimak says.
Naimak describes the road activities in the High North as very active. There is both national and cross-border traffic, and transit routes such as e.g. Oslo – Finnmark will often run through both Sweden and Finland.
- Finland, Norway and Sweden are so interwoven that what matters most right now, is to remove so-called ‘bottlenecks’; stretches of road where conditions are so poor that they cause a problem.
Tjernfjell in Saltdal, Norway is one example. Today, a tunnel is under construction here. Bjørnfjell near Narvik is another example, in order to achieve better regularity on winter conditions.
- The Joint Barents Transportation Plan is a good joint cause where both Norway, Finland, Sweden and Russia join forces to find good solutions and where we together have created a ‘main corridor’ train of thought across the borders. I do however miss seeing this thought reflected in our Norwegian National Transportation Plan, Naimak says.
Even though bottlenecks have received attention and some of them are about to be resolved, Naimak has nevertheless seen a trend that worries him.
- The roads for which the state is responsible are beginning to hold a rather high standard. However, the roads for which the counties are responsible are not quite there yet. In fact, I see that a standard gap seems to develop between the two, the road manager says.
He describes a potential situation for e.g. an island-based salmon farm for which the transportation of goods to the market will be challenging and meandering.
- In order to hit the E6 main road, the fish products have to be transported on a rather poor county-managed road, through a tunnel and across poor bridges. Something should be done to provide transportation that is more coherent and roads to the market, and individual considerations should be made. Where is the situation more precarious, and which county roads need improving the most, Naimak asks.
He argues that Norway has to bring the discussion where there today is continuous traffic, such as from Mo i Rana to the coast, or from Målselv to Senja.
- I believe we must identify the roads that matter the most to the industry first, he says.
In terms of good cross-border road construction examples, Naimak refers to the Bøkfjord Bridge on the E105 road, which connects Norway and Russia.
- The bridge will be officially opened on September 29, and there will be an opening on both the Norwegian and the Russian side. The background for this bridge is a joint investigation that was later followed up, he says.
The project is a part of the upgrading of the entire road between Kirkenes and Murmansk, and both the Norwegian Minister of Transportation and his Russian counterpart will attend the event.
- I want to pay respect to Russia for this cooperation. It goes to prove that it is possible to achieve something together, the regional road manager says.
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