Developers push for high-speed Arctic railway

An infrastructure development company co-founded by Peter Vesterbacka, who worked on the development of the Angry Birds game, has announced plans to build a high-speed Arctic railway.

Peter Vesterbacka in trademark red hoodie (FinEstBayArea)

FinEstBayArea Development, which was set up to help build the world’s longest undersea tunnel between Helsinki and Tallinn, made the announcement at the Arctic Business Forum, which is currently taking place in Rovaniemi in northern Finland.

The company has signed a memorandum of understanding with Norwegian development company Sør-Varanger to look at a railway through Finnish Lapland to the port of Kirkenes in northern Norway.

Vesterbacka said in a press statement yesterday (9 May): "This is an important initiative. We will proceed like we do with the Tallinn tunnel project. We will examine all alternatives together with all stakeholders.

Kenneth Stålsett, chief executive of Sør-Varanger, told the High North News website: "This is very good. A whole new element in the work of putting the Arctic railway back on the agenda. This will give the project a completely different progress than it has had so far."

The venture, which has a completion target of 2024, is to be entirely funded by private capital.

Similar plans have already been put forward by the Finnish government, only to meet criticism from environmentalists and many members of Lapland’s Sámi community.

NewsNowFinland said the main concern was the effect on reindeer herds and the disturbance to a pristine wilderness.

Vesterbacka told the site he had had initial discussions with Sámi political leaders about how to mitigate the impact of a railway, and how it could benefit the communities in the north. He says that options include putting part of the railway underground, or on stilts.

Top image: Finnish Lapland (Dreamstime)

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