The need to develop transnational Arctic infrastructure is clear. Sweden and Finland are becoming Europe’s largest growth regions for mining, Norway requires a rapid connection to Helsinki to enable onward transportation of fish to East Asia, and Sweden needs increased rail capacity to Narvik and increased port capacity.
The infrastructure technology is readily available for deployment in the Arctic and the national authorities of Barents region countries are collaborating on overarching transport plans. However, the trans-border nature of the needed infrastructure presents challenges in finding common ground on funding such projects.
The round table in Oulu was focused on exploring solutions to these issues by bringing together 33 key Arctic stakeholders including financiers, key policymakers across the Nordic countries, transportation authorities, contractors, and community leaders. All participants agreed that the development of the northern Barents region requires political leadership and must become clearer national policy. Private Public Partnerships were also identified as viable tool for securing funding, whereby governments guarantee future income for infrastructure financed by the private sector.
Following the Oulu round table discussion, several participants have gained new momentum on their projects:
- The Finnish authorities have initiated an overarching feasibility study for northern Finland, so that all possible rail connections to the Arctic Ocean will be comparable in terms of costs, benefits for society and financing
- Norrbotniabanan, the proposed rail link between Umeå and Luleå, will start formal planning processes this summer
- The International Council of Municipalities in the border-region of Finland, Sweden and Norway has initiated a project to create a common labour market in northern Scandinavia, which would need to be supported by new infrastructure
Click on the video of the Oulu round table where Ramboll Arctic Director, Nils Arne Johnsen, also gives his views on the discussions.