Debate: Cross-border railway investments in the north secure climate change

Charlie Taylor

The green transition in northern Sweden, northern Norway and northern Finland is attracting a lot of attention in the world. They are versatile regions with unique conditions for regional growth that are gaining ground thanks to their sustainable offerings. These include large contributions to raw material and energy supply, bioeconomy and the use of green technology. And attracts companies and investments from all over the world. The prospects for increased mineral extraction in northern Sweden and northern Finland are good and demand for seafood, especially from northern Norway, is increasing. A stronger connection between train infrastructure in northern Finland, northern Sweden and northern Norway provides more job opportunities, increases tourism and contributes to a stronger business community. The Swedish basic industry’s green transition is of both national and global interest and is absolutely crucial for whether we reach our high climate goals. In the next few years, the industry will therefore invest around SEK 1,000 billion in northern Sweden. LKAB alone invests 300 – 400 billion, Northvolt about 40 billion, H2 Green Steel 25 billion. New industries are also planned in northern Finland and northern Norway, which will require an expansion of the transport infrastructure. For example, Aker Horizon is planning large investments in green industrial projects in Narvik. The total investments can be tens of billions. In order for these investments to be realized, a functioning transport infrastructure is required for both freight and passenger transport. Planning for double tracks between Narvik and Luleå is in the long run necessary from a system perspective. For LKAB and the investment in fossil-free steel, Malmbanan’s function is absolutely crucial. The entire Malmbanan from Luleå to Narvik must be upgraded and capacity expanded, not least to secure the green transition and thousands of new planned jobs. The seafood industry could double its exports through Sweden overnight if the capacity on the Ore Line had been available.However, the development of a large-scale and environmentally friendly basic industry in northern Norway, northern Sweden and northern Finland is threatened by shortcomings in the transport infrastructure. New large industrial projects place new demands on functioning infrastructure projects and continued capacity growth. However, the Swedish Transport Administration’s proposal for a national plan for transport infrastructure 2022–2033, which was presented on 30 November, does not meet the priorities and needs presented and identified by central and northern Sweden. The measures proposed lack both a system view and an implementation perspective. In the spring of 2022, the government needs to re-prioritize and create conditions for the green transport of the future. In the Swedish Transport Administration’s proposal for action planning, there are some necessary measures but it is far from enough to ensure the necessary capacity and robustness and to meet the industry’s growing needs. To speak clearly – without further efforts, Malmbanan will remain the industry’s wasp waist. Therefore, it is welcome that the Swedish Transport Administration has at the same time reported a special government assignment where more and more comprehensive measures are proposed. These initiatives are, just as the Swedish Transport Administration clearly marks, absolutely necessary to implement urgently to ensure absolutely necessary conditions for the development of business and industry. The following applies to the Ore Line: • Upgrading and modernization of the Kiruna-Gällivare section with a Stax of 32.5 tonnes. • Increase to Stax 32.5 tonnes on the section Kiruna-Riksgränsen and Svappavaara-Kiruna. • Extension of the meeting stations Murjek, Harrträsk, Näsberg and Nuortikon. • Luleå C relocation of the car park and conversion of the car park. • Ore line Boden-Gällivare fencing system and passages for reindeer and game. • Minor trimming measures in Luleå C, Boden C and on the Boden-Kiruna section. • Initiate an investigation for the construction of a new Svappavaara-Pajala track with a connection to the Finnish railway network in Kolari. • Start the construction of the double track Kiruna-Narvik with a first stage Kiruna-Bergfors. • Dual tracks Luleå-Boden.EU are clear that the European backbone network will be ready in 2030. This means that expansions and measures on the Ore Line and in the entire Botnical Corridor with the Norrbotnia Line, the New East Coast Line and the railway through Bergslagen must be accelerated. The measures are necessary to secure the supply of skills and further processing in support of the business sector’s gigantic investments in the north and, by extension, climate change. Business, actors in the transport area and residents need to know when the major infrastructure projects are to be completed.

“A stronger connection between train infrastructure in northern Finland, northern Sweden and northern Norway provides more job opportunities, increases tourism and contributes to a stronger business community.”

Sweden also has to comply with EU legislation in the field of transport. In order to better connect northern Sweden with the rest of the EU and to meet the rapid green development that is taking place in the north, the EU has extended the Scandinavian-Mediterranean core network corridor from Stockholm north along the Bothnian Corridor along the Norrland coast and on to Narvik and to Haparanda-Oulu. Similarly, the North Sea-Baltic corridor has been extended north through Finland and on to Luleå. This means an increased opportunity for co-financing from the EU by 30-50%, but in order to be able to apply for these funds, the projects must be included at national level. In order to enable a rapid expansion of the coastal route and the Ore Line with the help of EU funding, it is therefore of the utmost importance that the entire route is included at national level. We also call for better coordination at regional and national level for cross-border railway investments in northern Sweden, Norway and Finland and this spring, LKAB, the Port of Narvik and the Norrbotnia Line are arranging an Arctic infrastructure conference in Kiruna with the aim of promoting increased cooperation.

“It is crucial that the government handles this urgently and in a comprehensive package in order to quickly create robust conditions for the green transition and thereby enable the planned investments.”

The industry takes responsibility for the green transition, but a well-functioning logistics system is a prerequisite for the implementation of the plans. A protracted upgrade of the Ore Line will threaten the leadership of Norrbotten’s industry in Europe’s climate change and thereby reduce the chances of achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement. It is crucial that the government handles this urgently and in a comprehensive package the planned investments. Right now, the “window” is open for Sweden to take part in the profits and added value that the business sector’s gigantic investments bring. It is now that investments in green infrastructure must take place.Michael Palo Director Business Area Järnmalm LKABBørge Edvardsen KlinganCEO Narvik HavnLorents Burmanchairman of the Norrbotnia Railway GroupRoland Kemppainenchairman of the Tornedal CouncilKlas Dagertunvd Kaunis IronAnna Tynivd Copperstone Resources Tor Anders ElvegårdChairman of SeaFood NorwayNils Olov LindforsRegional Council Region NorrbottenElvy SöderströmChairman of the Bothnian Corridor

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