In Hbl of Sö 30.09.18 there was a long article about the plans to build a railway line to the Arctic Ocean. The idea is that ships which come via Nordostpassagen from the east should get occasion to put part of their freight on a railway line already before reaching, e.g., one of the German harbours.
Minister Anne Berner is publicly supporting the idea. Investigations which railway routes should be considered are in progress. As to possible routes, the article reports that “[m]an valde bort dem som slutade i Narvik, Tromsö och Murmansk” – which leaves exactly two possible routes, both ending in Kirkenes. Reasons for this decision were not given in the article. But the article gives anyway the views of the reindeer herders through whose areas the railway line should pass and who are very much less than happy about the whole idea. – As a biologist, I do in fact see that the combination of reindeer herds with railway tracks could indeed be more problematic than we, who are unfamiliar with reindeer behaviour, would be able to imagine: reindeer are not so far domesticated that one could be sure to keep them out of the way of a train just with a few shepherd dogs … .
My main doubts about the project in its present form concern, though, the expenses. According to the article, the line would be constructed all new from either Rovaniemi or Kemijärvi, in both cases going north until joining the common route of both proposals a bit south of Sodankylä and going rather straight north towards Kirkenes on the coast of the Arctic Ocean. And after having read the article I took my WSOY Suuri Maailman Atlas from 1991 and had a closer look. And lo and behold, one map showed a railway line going from Kemijärvi towards the east, via Alakurtti, seemingly making a connection to the Russian railway line to Murmansk, while another map seemed to indicate that that railway connection had been cut – resulting in the impression that there had obviously been some railway line at some time (so that it should not be too difficult or expensive to rebuild that line along its former track).
Altogether, instead of building an all new line towards Kirkenes, causing possible environmental and economical trouble along the way, it might be clearly cheaper to connect with the Russian line to Murmansk which already exists (and which has presumably already done all the resulting environmental damage). For job seekers from Kirkenes (who already now have a steady visum for visiting the Russian cities of the region) one could consider organizing some type of commuter traffic to Murmansk (e.g. by some fast rail connection, if not for dayly commute then at least for those who want to work during the week in Murmansk and return for the weekend to Kirkenes – according to the map there do exist railway lines which come very close to the border from the Russian side, and according to the article Kirkenes is only 10 km from Russia). The main reasons for this my suggestion are that there exist already on the Russian side of the border both a ready railway line and a harbour which is much larger than anything in Kirkenes.
Of course there would, in Finland, arise a nationalistic and pro-NATO outcry against such a plan: just imagine how much more Finland would become dependent on that Russian enemy beyond the border! But consider: Any ship which has come via Nordostpassagen has already for thousands of kilometers followed a course parallel to a Russian coast, has risked being in need of Russian help (e.g. by icebreakers), has altogether been open to all types of possible Russian intervention IF the Russians just had wanted … . To feel “finally safe” after having reached Kirkenes (a mere 10 km from the Russian border) after such a journey could be considered “somewhat ridiculous”. Further, the customers who might want to take cargo or containers from the ship and load them onto trains are NOT only in Western Europe but also in Western Russia, and for both of these sharing the use of the Murmansk line might be a win-win solution. The line south from Murmansk leads pretty straight into the St.Petersburg area, and an agreement between Russia and Germany to establish a fast rail connection between St. Petersburg and Berlin (no tunnels needed) has recently been signed … . Thus, might it in fact be a better idea first to try a shared use of the Murmansk railway before (if it should turn out to become necessary) spending several thousand million Euro on a direct line to Kirkenes?