Arctic Railway

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Arctic Railway
Proposed rail routes into Lapland.
Existing or disused routes are shown as grey dotted lines.
LocaleLapland, Finland
Finnmark, Norway
ServicesRovaniemi - Vuojärvi - Sodankylä -
Petkula - Vuotso - Saariselkä -
Nellim - Rayakoski - Nikel - Kirkenes
Line length526 km (327 mi)
Number of tracksDouble track
Track gauge1,524 mm (5 ft)
Electrification25 kV 50 Hz AC overhead lines
Arctic Railway
to Oulu
to Kemijärvi
to Kolari
to Lakselv via Inari and Utsjoki
Murmansk-Nikel Railway
to Murmansk
to Murmansk via Pechenga

The Arctic Railway (also Arctic Ocean Railway) is a planned railway line linking the Norwegian Arctic port of Kirkenes with the Finnish railway network.


Proposals for a rail link between Lapland and northern Norway began serious consideration in 2017,[1] with the aim of linking the Finnish railway network to Arctic shipping routes.[2] In light of global warming making an ice-free Northeast Passage a possibility within the 21st century. Russia has also been re-investing into its fleet of nuclear icebreakers, replacing older ships which had plied the Arctic sea routes since Soviet times with newer models. There are widespread expectations that the Arctic ports of Murmansk, Kirkenes and Narvik will grow in importance in the coming decades, thus necessitating better hinterland infrastructure. Railroads are widely regarded as the most efficient way to transport goods to and from ports, and railroad access is often seen as an advantage in the competition between ports.[3] Furthermore, improving links between Russia and Norway would allow goods travelling by land along the Eurasian Land Bridge to get from China to Norway via only one transit country, Russia, and with – depending on the gauge chosen for the Arctic Railway and the final destination in Norway – only one or two breaks of gauge. Thus problems with additional transit countries such as Iran (southern route) or Belarus/Ukraine (Central route) could be avoided.

Route options under consideration included starting at Rovaniemi or Kemijärvi in Finland to either Kirkenes in Norway or Murmansk in Russia, or from Kolari or Tornio in Finland to Narvik (via Sweden) or Tromsø in Norway.[4] The Rovaniemi to Kirkenes route has been determined to be the most feasible,[5] with an estimated cost of €2.9 billion.[6] €2 billion would be covered by the Finnish government, with the remaining €900 million covered by the Norwegian government.[7]

In early 2019, a Finnish-Norwegian working group assembled by Finland's Ministry of Transport and Communications stated that the volume of cargo was too small to justify the project's costs.[8] After plans for the railway stalled, entrepreneur Peter Vesterbacka announced an alternative plan for the project in May 2019, claiming the railway could be built through private investments from China and the European Union, and with an underground route. As of March 2020, Vesterbacka and Chinese investors are aiming to build an undersea railway tunnel with a route between Helsinki and Tallinn.[9][8]


Environmental and cultural sensitivities exist which affect these plans, with concerns from the indigenous Sámi people that the proposed line would pass through reindeer grazing lands.[10] Indigenous reindeer herders have criticized the plans, arguing that a railway would cut off reindeer migration paths and cause accidents, killing herds.[11][8] Tiina Sanila-Aikio, the former president of the Sámi Parliament of Finland, has stated that section 17 of the Finnish constitution legally prohibits the approval of the railway, since it "assures the Sami's right to maintain and develop their own culture", which she states includes "reindeer herding, fishing and hunting in the area".[8] In 2018, Greenpeace, Sámi youth organization Suoma Sámi Nuorat [se], and Sámi activist and arts group Suohpanterror staged protests to block the railway's path.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Proposed Arctic Railway Would Cut Through Lapland Reindeer Habitat". Arctic Deeply. 3 August 2017.
  2. ^ "Finland-Norway rail link planned to fit Arctic sea routes". Reuters. 9 May 2019.
  3. ^ "Hinterlandanbindung der Seehäfen".
  4. ^ "Lapland authorities plan zones for controversial rail line". The Independent Barents Observer. 30 April 2019.
  5. ^ "Finland explores prospective railway link from Rovaniemi to the Arctic Ocean". YLE. 9 March 2018.
  6. ^ "Plans move forward for €2.9bn Arctic railway". Construction Index. 12 March 2018.
  7. ^ Arctic Ocean Railway Report (PDF). Finnish Transport Agency (Report). 2018. ISBN 978-952-317-527-3 – via Norwegian Rail Administration.
  8. ^ a b c d Nilsen, Thomas (March 5, 2020). "The dream of an Arctic railway fades as Sami herders signal "veto"". The Independent Barents Observer. Retrieved 26 November 2020.
  9. ^ Quinn, Eilís (September 22, 2019). "The Arctic railway: Building a future… or destroying a culture?". Retrieved 26 November 2020.
  10. ^ "Environmentalists and Sámi politicians hit out at new Arctic railway proposal". News Now Finland. 12 May 2019. Archived from the original on 11 January 2021. Retrieved 7 June 2019.
  11. ^ Wall, Tom (23 February 2019). "The battle to save Lapland: "First, they took the religion. Now they want to build a railroad"". The Guardian. Retrieved 26 November 2020.
  12. ^ Lakkala, Aletta (8 September 2018). "Punaisiin pukeutuneet ihmisjoukot vetävät Ylä-Lappiin rajoja estääkseen Jäämeren radan tulon" [Crowds dressed in red draw borders in Upper Lapland to prevent the Arctic Ocean railway from entering]. Yle (in Finnish). Retrieved 2021-09-30.