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A major activity hub


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“This project with railway connected to the Belt and Road Initiative through the Northern Sea Route and the Arctic strategy of China fits very well into the plan for the huge ‘Barents Harbor’,” Rune Rafaelsen, mayor of the Sor-Varanger municipality, told Xinhua. “Regarding logistic transport in the Arctic in the future, you are dependent on having a good railroad that could reach Europe fast and Kirkenes is the first (Western) port when you come from China,” he said.

According to a study by the Finnish and Norwegian governments, the 520-km railway between Rovaniemi and Kirkenes would cost about 2.9 billion euros ($ 3.6 billion) and open in 2030. It will form part of the proposed Arctic Corridor, which envisions cargo from Asia would be offloaded in Kirkenes and sent southward by railway to Finland, the Baltic states and the rest of Europe. Local planners in Kirkenes have been lobbying the Norwegian town of Barents, 15 km west of the border with Russia, as the perfect site for a major hub linking the Arctic shipping route and the Arctic Corridor. “The vision for The Arctic Railway is to be able to offer an environment-friendly and faster transport alternative for goods between Northeast Asia and Northern Europe via Finland by utilisation of the Northern Sea Route and development of Kirkenes as a hub port,” said a Norwegian report published in January. The report titled An Arctic Railway Vision was a result of work between the development company Sor-VarangerUtvikling, the Kirkenes Business Park and the Finnmark County Council. The voyage could be cut back 40% via the Northern Sea Route, the Arctic shipping course also known as the Northeast Passage, compared to the current route through the Suez Canal between Northern Europe and Northeast Asia, according to the report. It would result in a 20% reduction in fuel consumption, it added.


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