Chinesische Investoren wollen 15 Milliarden EUR in Tunnel von Tallinn nach Helsinki investieren

Gemäß nordisch.info wollen chinesische Investoren 15 Milliarden in den Tunnel von Helsinki nach Tallinn investieren. Die Aussage ist natürlich nicht plausibel und lädt zu Zweifeln ein.. Auch ohne Finnisch zu können findet man die Zahl von 15 Milliarden und das chinesische Engagement in finnischen Originalquellen wieder. Oder in der englischen Kurzfassung. Oder bei Reuters auf Englisch. Mir ist nicht wirklich klar, welches Interesse Chinesen an dieser Verbindung haben sollen. Dass sie Interesse an einer Verbindung von Nordfinnland nach Kirkenes oder Murmansk haben könnten, weil das den Güterverkehr zwischen China und Nordeuropa um eine sehr nützliche Verbindung reicher macht, kann man eventuell noch nachvollziehen. Aber Kirkenes lässt sich auch über Schweden oder über Russland von Mitteleuropa erreichen und dafür braucht man diesen Tunnel nicht. Somit wäre er überwiegend tangential zu allen Verbindungen, die China involvieren. Dass es ein gutes Geschäft wird und Geld gewinnbringend investiert werden soll, kann natürlich sein, aber auch daran bestehen erst einmal berechtigte Zweifel. Wir werden sehen, wie sich diese Story auflöst und ob es sich vielleicht so verhält, wie mit den chinesischen Plänen, in Nicaragua eine Alternative zum Panamakanal zu bauen. Davon hat man lange nichts mehr gehört. Von daher ist es sicher noch zu früh zum feiern. Was aber sicher ist: Wenn diese Investitionssumme aufgebracht wird, steigt die Wahrscheinlichkeit, dass sich diese Verbindung, die von Estland und Finnland grundsätzlich gewünscht wird, tatsächlich bauen lässt. Warten wir es einmal ab, was man in den nächsten 2-3 Jahren dazu lesen wird. Es wird aber auch über die Risiken einer so großen Investition von staatsnahen chinesischen Organisationen gesprochen. Man möchte zumindest verstehen, was das Interesse ist.

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How to continue with the rail line from Rovaniemi to Kirkenes?

Deutsch

As could be observed, the project of a railroad from Rovaniemi to Kirkenes has been put on hold, because of not being economically viable with the currently predicted amounts of freight volume. Passenger service, which would be expected to happen on this line, would be so little that it cannot contribute a large share, so the justification of the product has to come from freight traffic. Also there seems to be resistance from the Sámi people. I have a hard time accepting their style of arguing that this rail line would be a genocide, because this word may well be used for circumstances that destroy a culture and a people without physically killing it, but not for building a single rail line in an area that is already accessible by roads. The argument is, that the line would cut the grassing areas of reindeer and thus destroy the traditional culture of reindeer herding. Why should a rail line that is running near the Russian border have such an effect? The area already has a road network that cuts the area in parts or endangers the animals crossing them and the border between Norway or Finland and Russia, which is not very open. It is possible to build short tunnel sections in a railroad line to allow animals to cross, even without mountains that would require tunnels. Bridges would also be possible. This is something that is sometimes done for new roads and railroad in some countries, for example in Switzerland. It would of course be necessary to provide such crossings for this rail line as well. Why not for the roads? It is assumed that road vehicles can stop on sight when animals are on the road, which is not possible for trains, so a fence and safe crossings would be needed. I do not know if this was offered as part of the plan. Unfortunately the Sami representatives do not seem to show any willingness to compromises.

Freight traffic that could be performed by the railroad is still taking place, partially by trucks on the roads, partially on other railroad lines. An expanded port of Kirkenes could have a high percentage of its land transport done by rail, because rail transport is efficient for long distances with a single point like a port as destination. And the sea routes could be shorter as well when crossing the northern Atlantic or circumnavigating northern Siberia and the Bering Strait to East Asia and the North American Pacific coast.

Many factors are hard to predict or change with time. So it could prove that this project is a good choice for Finland and Norway.

The next best alternative would be to build a line to Murmansk, which also has a mostly iceless port with good potential connections across the Atlantic and to eastern Asia. This line would be much cheaper to build, because most of it exists or existed, requiring reconstruction of only 200 km vs. more than 450 km to Kirkenes. The advantage of Kirkenes is that currently Norway and Finland are closer neighbors with open borders, so it might be a bit better to use this variant if it can be paid. Even a connection from Rovaniemi to Kirkenes could be built via Russia using existing tracks and requiring only the construction of much less new tracks. Now Russia can be considered to be a reliable neighbor of Finland and Norway, when it comes to such trade routes, but a direct connection that goes only through Norway and Finland might be worth investing a bit more.

Of course Finland does have rail connections to the rest of Europe even today via Sweden and Russia and it does have useful ports in the Baltic Sea coast. They are just not as convenient for long distance trade, especially in winter.

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Wie weiter mit der Bahnstrecke von Rovaniemi nach Kirkenes?

English

Wie geschrieben wurde, wird das Projekt der Bahnstrecke von Rovaniemi nach Kirkenes „auf Eis gelegt“. Man erwartet zu wenig Frachtvolumen, um die Investition rechtfertigen zu können und es gibt anscheinend enormen Widerstand von der Sámi-Bevölkerung, wobei krasse Aussagen gebracht werden, dass diese Bahn einen Genozid an der Sámi-Bevölkerung verursachen würde, weil die traditionelle Lebensweise komplett zerstört würde. Natürlich sollte man die Lebensgrundlagen einer einheimischen Bevölkerung nicht zerstören. Aber wieso sollte das eine Bahnstrecke tun, nachdem dort doch schon eine ganze Menge Straßen existieren und auch eine zur Zeit nicht sehr durchlässige Grenze zwischen Norwegen bzw. Finnland und Russland. Eine Bahnstrecke kann man auch ohne durch Gebirge bedingte Notwendigkeit für kurze Abschnitte in Tunnel legen, damit sie von Tieren und auch von den Rentieren der Sámi-Bevölkerung gequert werden können. Das sollte man tatsächlich tun, wenn man in dieser Gegend baut, allerdings verläuft weder die Grenze noch irgendeine Straße in der Gegend zu diesem Zweck in einem Tunnel. Nun können Straßen einfach gequert werden und man muss damit rechnen, dass dort Rentiere auftreten und dass ein paar Tiere jedes Jahr bei Straßenunfällen sterben, während man eine Bahnstrecke wohl einzäunen würde, weil ein Lokführer nicht auf Sicht anhalten kann, wenn Tiere auf dem Gleis sind. Leider ist in der Hinsicht keine Kompromissbereitschaft zu erkennen. Mir ist aber auch nicht bekannt, ob solche Tunnel bei der Verhandlung mit der Sámi-Bevölkerung angeboten oder in Betracht gezogen wurden.

Nun findet der Güterverkehr, den die Bahnstrecke tragen könnte, anderswo statt, zum Teil mit Lastwagen auf Straßen und zum Teil auf anderen Bahnstrecken. So ein ausgebauter Hafen von Kirkenes könnte einen hohen Bahnanteil bei der landseitigen Anbindung haben, einfach weil es sich für die großen Entfernungen anbietet. Und die seeseitigen Verbindungen könnten kürzer als von anderen Häfen sein, wenn man die Nordostpassage fährt oder den Nordatlantik überquert.

Viele Faktoren lassen sich schwer vorhersagen und viele ändern sich auch immer wieder mal. So könnte sich auch einmal herausstellen, dass sich diese Projekt doch für Finnland und Norwegen lohnt.

Eine kleine Anmerkung zu der Vermutung, dass Kirkenes das neue Rotterdam werden könnte und ein großer Teil des Güterverkehrs für ganz Europa durch Finnland laufen könnte: Das halte ich für unwahrscheinlich. Kirkenes wird ein Hafen für Export und Import aus Finnland, Nordnorwegen und Nordschweden sein. Vielleicht noch für das Baltikum, weil dies dieselbe Spurweite verwendet. Wir sprechen also von einem Einzugsgebiet mit etwa 10 bis 15 Millionen Einwohnern. Das sind 2% der Einwohner Europas, wenn auch eine riesige Fläche und relativ wirtschaftsstarke Länder. Für den Rest von Europa wird der Güterverkehr andere Wege verwenden oder weiterhin verwenden, insbesondere die bewährten Häfen in Rotterdam und Antwerpen. Man hat ja sogar Zweifel, ob das Frachtvolumen für die Strecke nach Kirkenes ausreicht, ob man also überhaupt einen hinreichend große Teil des finnischen Güterverkehrs dorthin bekäme.

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Bahnstrecke von Finnland nach Kirkenes auf Eis gelegt

Der Bau einer Bahnstrecke von Finnland nach Kirkenes, das schon als das neue „Rotterdam des Nordens“ tituliert wurde, wird auf Eis gelegt. Man glaubt nicht, dass es genug Verkehrsvolumen geben wird, um den Unterhalt zu finanzieren.

Es bleibt also nur die Hoffnung, dass das Projekt zu einem späteren Zeitpunkt wieder aufgegriffen wird. Grundsätzlich halte ich es weiterhin für eine gute Idee. Aber damit es ein Erfolg werden kann, müsste natürlich ein nennenswertes Frachtvolumen diesen Weg wählen. Ein eisfreier Hafen und eine immer eisärmere Norstostpassage sind sicher langfristig gute Voraussetzungen, auch wenn es natürlich bedauerlich ist, dass durch die Klimaerwärmung die Polkappen abschmelzen.

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New Discussions about Rail Connection from Finland to Kirkenes

Deutsch

Some activity can be observed concerning the question of a railroad connection from northern Finland to Kirkenes in Norway.

Such a railroad would start in Rovanienmi or Kemijärvi and go to Ivalo in northern Finland. From there it would pass the Lake Inari (Inarijärvi) either like todays highway in the west or a bit shorter in the east and lead to Kirkenes at the Russian Norwegian border and the Barents Sea.

Kirkenes has a good port that usually remains ice-less throughout the winter because of the Gulf Stream. It is the eastern end point of the Hurtigruten and there is currently the only road crossing the border from Norway to Russia. Kirkenes can currently only be reached from the land side only by road or by the Kirkenes–Bjørnevatn Line, a railroad that connects the port a a mine just 8.5 kilometers south. It is used mainly for transport of iron ore, depending on the activity of the mine and the world market prices of iron ore.

It seems to be reasonable to expand the port of Kirkenes. The new capacities could be offered to Finland and Russia. Discussions of connecting to Nikel (Никель) in Russia have been slowed down by Russia in an effort to support the port of Murmansk (Мурманск). But the project of connecting to Finland, even though about ten times as far, is being seriously considered. This would allow Finland easier access to the world makets, especially for transatlantic trade. In addition the route will gain importance due to the global warming, which is already making the Northeast passage north of Sibiria a more reasonable route to eastern Asia. It is shorter and cheaper than going via the Suez Canal, but the effect of global warming is still not so strong that this has become the main route. If such a rail connection to Finland existed, it would be possible to use Kirkenes also as port for parts of Russian and Central Europe including the Baltic States both to Asia and the Americas, by just using railroad connections between Finland and Russia that already exist. Finland and Russia both use a broad gauge of 1524 mm or 1520 mm, respectively, that is similar enough to allow usage of both gauges by the same freight trains.

The short line near Kirkenes could be converted to broad gauge or to dual gauge or a new track could be built parallel to it. It would be necessary to build about 550 km of track. Probably road transport could profit also, if the shorter route east of Lake Inari were chosen, because it is likely that a highway parallel to the railroad would close the 20 km long gap between the Finnish and Norwegian highway networks east of Lake Inari.

The shorter connection to Skibotn that was discussed earlier, seems to be irrelevant now. Of course, Skibotn does not have a serious port, which would have to be built, possibly causing some resistance and for sure costing a lot of money. The railroad could also be extended to Tromsø, but that would make it longer anyway and I have not heard of easy expansion options of the port of Tromsø.

Sometimes in Finland it is suggested to build a Tunnel from Finland to Estonia as well to connect to Europe. But I do not see this as a requirement, since the potential of freight transport would anyway come mostly from Finland. Other parts of Europe are already today be connected by train via ferries from Estonia to Finland or without ferries via Russia or via Sweden. One break of gauge will be in the route anyway.

Currently a feasibility study concerning the railroad connection from Finland to Kirkenes is being performed. Sometimes the term „Arctic Ocean Line“ is used for this project. I would assume that we are talking about an electrified single track railroad with short double track sections. The decision is supposed to be made in 2019. This inspires discussions like this article. We will see were this will lead. I am in favor of the project.

Map

Map of likely and possible routes (red):

Arctic Rail Routes

Arctic Rail Routes


Source Wikimedia Commons Creator RicHarc-59 (C) CC-BY-SA-3.0

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Rail Projects in Northern Scandinavia

Deutsch

The European region north of the arctic circle in Finland, Norway and Sweden is often called „Cap of the North“ („Nordkalotten“ in Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, or „Pohjoiskalotti“ in Finnish). That area is thinly populated, but there are some towns with a few 10’000 inhabitants and a more densely populated area in their vicinity, like Tromsø, Narvik, Alta, Harstad and Kiruna. I don’t want to take the arctic circle as a hard boundary, but rather write about rail projects in the north of these three countries, at least those I have heard of. Railroad construction in this area is mainly motivated by freight traffic. The Iron Ore Line from Narvik to Kiruna has been built to access the huge iron ore deposits in northern Sweden, mostly Kiruna. Now northern Sweden contains further iron ore deposits and also in northern Finland a lot of mining, mostly for iron ore, could be possible. Finland has already been called the „new Australia“ because of that. Even northern Norway contains some smaller share of iron ore deposits, mostly in the area of Kirkenes near the Russian border. This mine is the reason for the northernmost railroad in Norway connecting the sea port of Kirkenes with the mine, being just a few kilometers long. Because of declining profitability mine and railroad had already been closed down, but because of increasing demand and increasing prices for iron ore, they have been reopened.

The railroad to Narvik does not have any connection to the remaining Norwegian railroad network via Norway. The Nordland Line is running from Trondheim to Bodø. Bodø is situated pretty much half way through the whole country, between the Swedish border in the south in Svinesund and Grense Jakobselv at the Russian border in the northeast. Since the 1920es plans have existed to build this railroad line, but not only to Bodø, but also the Polar Line to Kirkenes and Vadsø in the northeast. During the second world war the construction of these lines was accelerated, which resulted in parts of the line from Trondheim to Bodø being built, even though the whole line was opened in 1962. North of Fauske and Bodø to Narvik some tunnels, bridges and railroad dams have been built, some which have been incorporated into the highway E6. Today a railroad to Kirkenes and Vadsø can no longer be considered reasonable, because the train would no longer be the only means of transport, since the area has been well equipped with highways, ports and airports. The number of inhabitants is too low to justify daily passenger trains in a situation where other means of transport exist. Even freight traffic is covered well by ships and trucks in this relation. The part of northern Norway north of Tromsø has so little population, that its contribution to air pollution created by Norway is not very significant.

Another question is the extension of the Nordland Line from Fauske to Narvik, Harstad and Tromsø. In this case a railroad from Trondheim to Tromsø with branches to Bodø, Narvik and Harstad could be imagined. This is a project that is discussed in Norway every couple of years, but it does not seem to have priority. Connecting towns and cities with somewhat more significant population this could provide potential for running freight and passenger trains several times per day with an acceptable number of passenger and acceptable amount of freight. A problem is the Tysfjord, which cannot easily be crossed or bypassed. In spite of almost unlimited resources for highway construction it has not been possible to build a ferry free section of the highway E6 between Fauske and Narvik. For a railroad three scenarios could be considered:

  • Ferry Line: The railroad leads to the fjord, probably to Drag, and is trajected by a railroad ferry, going to Narvik and Lødingen. This would allow for integration of Harstad, but the ferry would probably make the rail connection too unattractive to compete with highway, ship and air transport. So this variant will probably no longer be considered, if the line is ever built.
  • Fjord Line: The railroad follows the eastern shore of Tysfjord, with many tunnels.
  • Mountain Line: The railroad runs near the Swedish border across the mountain range, intersecting with the Iron Ore Line from Kiruna to Narvik near Bjørnfjell, this allowing for a branch to Narvik by just providing a connection.

More concrete than this are connections from the coast inland. Finland has lost its ice free port in Petsamo in the Arctic Sea during the second world war. It is no longer such a big deal because ice breakers have become more of an option, allowing even otherwise frozen ports in the Baltic Sea to stay open during the winter. The relationship between Norway and Finland is now good and Norwegian ports can be used by Finish companies. But trucks are not very useful for transporting huge quantities of iron ore. Such plans do exist for accessing a new mine near Pajala in northern Sweden using 90 ton trucks between the mine and the next railroad connection in Svappavara. It has even been authorized. But there are downsides. The highway and the bridges will be used up in as little as five years and the houses near the highway will need triple glass in an area where there were just a few cars per hour. There will be a 90 ton truck every two minutes, day and night. In the long run a railroad might be a better solution. In principle several options exist for connecting the new iron ore mining areas in northern Finland and Sweden with the sea ports that have been discussed recently:

  • Connections to the south via the existing railroad network to the south to Swedish and Finish ports (Kemi, Oulu, Luleå,…)
  • Connections going south or east via the Finish railroad network to Russia.k
  • Construction of a new railroad line from Pajala and northern Finalnd to Skibotn in Norway.
  • Construction of a new railroad line from Pajala and northern Finalnd to Kirkenes in Norway.
  • Construction of a new railroad line from Pajala and northern Finalnd to Svappavara.

It needs to be considered that Finland and Russia are using broad gauge (1520 mm in Russia, 1524 mm in Finland), while Sweden and Norway are using standard auge (1435 mm). While the difference between Russia and Finland is within the tolerance, having to change the track gauge is a hardly acceptable obstacle for freight traffic. The Iron Ore Line from Kiruna to Narvik is already quite congested, so there is not really much spare capacity for providing connections to other mines. But its capacity is extended to some extent by providing more and longer two track sections for allowing trains to meet and by improving the track bed for allowing higher axle loads of 30 tons.

Skibotn is a village with 700 inhabitants having just a small boat harbor. A port for huge sea ships could be built there, but it would be completely new. Also the slope from there to Finland is quite steep making it quite expensive, but still possible to build a railroad. Being in Skibotn in 2012 I have been told that this connection is no longer seriously considered.

Kirkenes already has the rail line for the first few kilometers, but in 1435 mm, which would have to be converted to 1524 mm. If the line is built, it will have to pass Lake Inari in the east or in the west. Kirkenes already has a sea port with options for extending its capacity. Other than Skibotn, Kirkenes might have some potential for passenger traffic, maybe for one or two daily trains, one during the day and one during the night. Because it is the northeastern end of the Hurtigruten it is a relevant tourist destination. Considerations exist also to connect Kirkenes to the Russian railroad network, but they are much less concrete than connecting to Finland, even though the route is much shorter.

Already south of the arctic circle it is worth mentioning that a new railroad line from Boden to Happaranda has been opened in 2012 running parallel to the shore of the Baltic Sea and shortening the trackage significantly. A huge drawback of the Swedish railroad network north of Sundsvall is that the trunk railroad lines have been built far away from the coast for military strategic reasons, leaving the connection of the major towns and cities which are near the coast to branch lines. This is no longer very competitive in these days. This has been fixed to some extent by the Bothnia Line running from Sundsvall to Umeå somewhat near the coast. This is a mostly single track high speed railroad line opened in 2010. An extension from Umeå to Luleå (near Boden) is considered as North Bothnia Line.

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