Port of Narvik and Ofoten Railway could become core EU corridor

By Linda Storholm, High North News - June 8, 2018
The Ofoten Railway will become part of the EU’s transport corridor from the Mediterranean to Scandinavia. (David Gubler / Wikimedia Commons)

The European Commission suggests prolonging one of Europe’s most important transport corridors to include Narvik in Northern Norway.

“This is excellent news,” says Torjus Kleiven Kandal at the North Norway European Office.

The Ofoten Railway and Narvik are already on the EU’s list of ‘core networks’, but elevating its status to ‘core corridor’ would carry significant impact. The corridors are the highest prioritized transport areas and are where the majority of money is spent.

Narvik is listed as the end station on a transport corridor starting on Malta, in the Mediterranean. Kandal explains that the Ofoten Railway carries major strategic significance for the EU:

“90 percent of the iron ore that is extracted in the EU comes from Kiruna (Sweden) and is shipped out via Narvik, so this is obviously important for German industry and the entire EU,”Kandal said. “In addition, the majority of goods supplies to Northern Norway arrive via rail. High regularity on this route is particularly important for business north of Narvik in Norway. Furthermore, there is a great potential for transporting more of fish from Northern Norway to the markets via rail. Transport bottlenecks need to be removed in order to supply fish from Northern Norway to Europe, and other goods to the Arctic.”

Support from Norway

Sweden and Finland were the first to start working on heightening the status of this distance. The North Norway EU Office was quick to announce its support and contribute to their work. Norwegian Transportation Minister Ketil Solvik-Olsen also stated his support to the project; first in 2016 and later again this spring.

The main lines of the EU’s proposed long-term budget for the 2021-2027 period were announced early May. Following on from that, further details have been revealed and recently information on planned transportation priorities were made known. The EU Commission has presented the proposal, and now the EU Council, the Member States and the EU Parliament are to discuss and process. The proposal may be adopted in about a year, Torjus Kleiven Kandal estimates.

The proposal isn’t final, but Kandal says is has a good chance of being adopted.

“It has the support of Sweden and Finland, both EU Member States, as well as Norway as an EEA member, and the Commission has said that this is important and the right thing to do, so I think it is a well-anchored proposal,” Kandal says.

Strategic effort

The EU has a total of nine transport corridors, and in addition to the Ofoten Railway and the Port of Narvik, there is a proposal to include the Bothnian corridor into the transport corridor referred to as ‘the Mediterranean – Scandinavia’.

The North Norway European Office has for years cooperated with Finnish and Swedish regions in the Bothnian Corridor project in order to increase its status. They have worked strategically towards both the European Parliament and the European Commission, as well as towards national authorities to demonstrate just how important prolonging this corridor will be.

“Seeing concrete results of what we have been working on is quite thrilling,” Kandal says.

First above the Arctic Circle

For the North Norway EU Office, it is important to work on improving infrastructure in the High North.

“We have warranted EU investments in infrastructure in the Arctic for years, investments they have decided on in their own Arctic documents. We are happy to see the EU deliver on its promise of investing in this project, and this will be the first EU corridor to stretch out north of the Arctic Circle. The EU is now delivering on its Arctic policy, and Norwegian authorities have to follow up,” Kandal says.

Even though the proposal is to be debated for another year before being adopted, the Swedes are hitting the ground running. The Swedish government last week announced that the construction of the North Botnia Railway between Umeå and Luleå will commence this year. The Swedes are planning to apply for funding from the CEF, the EU’s funding arrangement, as this railway appears on schedule to becoming a core corridor.