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Three case studies

In this section we present and give a brief introduction to the three case studies selected; the proposed “fixed HH link” between Helsingborg and Helsingør; the proposed new Stockholm-Oslo rail connection; and the multi-modal corridor from Mo i Rana in Norway, across Sweden and the Kvarken Strait, to Vaasa in Finland.
In all three cases, increased cross-border collaboration and improved cross-border transport infrastructure have been promoted by regional and local stakeholders for decades. All three case studies feature the involvement of at least two countries and stakeholders at the national, regional and local levels. While the fixed HH link involves a fairly short distance, the multi-modal corridor from Mo i Rana to Vaasa is at the other extreme and the Stockholm-Oslo link is in between.


With Helsingborg located on the Swedish side of the Öresund Strait and Helsingør on the Danish side, this link represents the closest connection between Sweden and Denmark with a distance of just three kilometres across the strait. Regular transport services by ferry for passengers and freight started in the first half of the 19th century. At the beginning of the 20th century, cross-border trade increased, rising to one ferry crossing the strait every five minutes in the 1960s. Until the opening of the Öresund Bridge between Malmö and Copenhagen in 2000, the ferry link between Helsingborg and Helsingør was the main transport link between Sweden and Denmark.
A fixed link, including both road and rail, between Helsingborg and Helsingør is expected to increase transport opportunities and help reduce vulnerability of the traffic system across the Öresund Strait. Furthermore, an HH link would extend the labour market in the northern part of the Greater Copenhagen Region and also create work opportunities during the construction phase. Besides the national transport administration agencies in Denmark and Sweden, regional and local stakeholders also play an important role. The two cities to be joined by the proposed fixed HH link, namely Helsingborg and Helsingør, are responsible for physical planning at the local level. Region Skåne and Region Hovedstaden perform a key role, but their mandates depend on the public administration structure in the respective countries. For example, Region Skåne has a mandate both for the planning of transport infrastructure and the management and operation of regional transport, whereas these issues fall within the responsibility of the national government in the case of Region Hovedstaden. To lobby for a fixed HH link, “HH2030-gruppen” was established in 2009. It consists of more than 40 municipalities, organisations and private companies. Furthermore, the Greater Copenhagen cross-border organisation plays an important role. Based on a common agreement concluded in 2016 (and updated in 2020), it advocates increased cross-border transport infrastructure links across the Öresund Strait.
Fixed HH link
The strategic analysis (Strategisk analyse/Förberedande studie) ”Fast förbindelse mellem Helsingör och Helsingborg” was the result of collaboration among the Swedish Transport Administration (Trafikverket), the Danish Road Directorate (Vejdirektoratet) and the Danish Transport, Construction and Housing Authority (Trafik-, Bygge- og Boligstyrelsen) in 2021. The task of conducting the analysis was jointly assigned by the governments concerned.
A possible next step to continue the process of establishing the fixed link would be for the national governments to instruct the transport authorities in the respective countries to start a more detailed physical planning process (“lokaliseringsutredning”).
Figure 1. Fixed HH link, Trafikverket et al. 2021, p. 9.


The straight-line distance from Stockholm to Oslo is estimated at 400 kilometres. However, due to long travel times, limited supply of rail options and low rail punctuality, most of the end-to-end travel between the capital cities takes place by air. Road transport is also an important travel mode, while rail connections are weak. The travel time by rail is estimated to be 5 h 14 min (2017) (Jernbanedirektoratet and Trafikverket, 2022). In order to facilitate travel between Oslo and Stockholm – which are important trading partners – and to increase sustainable economic growth and development along the link, investments in new and improved rail links between Stockholm and Oslo have been advocated by interest groups from both countries. 
There are several alternative links and routes that could potentially decrease travel time. A joint pilot study by the Norwegian Railway Directorate (Jernbanedirektoratet) and the Swedish Transport Administration (2022) (here we refer to fact box) investigated two alternative routes for a new 250 km/h railway connection (Gränsbanan): one northern route via Lilleström and a southern route via Ski, both ending in Arvika.
Figure 2. Alternative Oslo-Stockholm routes, Jernbanedirektoratet and Trafikverket, 2022, p. 12.
The proposed rail links are expected to decrease the end-to-end travel time by 77-79 minutes, dramatically increase the number of passengers at the expense of air traffic and influence the development of an extended and integrated labour market. As a next step, the pilot study recommended a joint Swedish-Norwegian study on strategic measures.
Oslo-Stockholm pilot study
In February 2022, the Ministry of Transport tasked the Norwegian Railway Directorate with developing a pilot study (mulighetsstudie) for the Oslo-Stockholm link. The aim was to provide background knowledge to establish whether a study on strategic measures should be drawn up. The Swedish Transport Administration was assigned a similar task by the Swedish Infrastructure Ministry in June 2022 and the decision was made to conduct a joint project. The study focused on one of the potential routes, Arvika-Ski/Lilleström (Gränsbanan), and included evaluations of market, capacity, financial and cost-and-benefit analyses. The pilot study was presented in September 2022.

Mo i Rana via Umeå to Vaasa 

The 500-kilometre-long corridor between Vaasa in Finland and Mo i Rana in Norway follows the European road E12 and the Ume River. The corridor consists of a mix of road, ferry, rail and air links. The ferry connects roads on the two sides of the Kvarken Strait. A short rail link connects Vaasa central railway station with Vaasa harbour. A rail link also connects the harbour in Umeå with Storuman, halfway between Umeå and Mo i Rana. Between Storuman and Mo i Rana, the road is the only land-based connection. 
Figure 3. The corridor from Vaasa in Finland, via Holmsund, Umeå and Storuman, through to Mo i Rana and Mosjoen in Norway. Source: Interreg Botnia Atlantica, 2018, p.5.
Although there are several airports along the corridor, there are no direct flights. The main stakeholders in the development of the corridor represent the national transport planning authorities, the regions, the municipalities and the cross-border organisations. 
Based on discussions in the 1950s aimed at strengthening east-west connections and the growing tourism sector, the Blue Highway association was established in 1963. Although ferries have existed for long time during the summers, year around ferries between Umeå and Vaasa started in 1972 and the Kvarken Council was formed. In 2020 the status of the council changed and it was renamed the Kvarken Council EGTC (European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation). Collaboration at the Swedish-Norwegian border was stepped up by establishment of the MidtSkandia organisation in 1988. Today the three organisations work closely together.
Over the years, there has been a focus on many aspects of transport and infrastructure planning along the corridor, especially with regard to the condition of the E12 road. On the Norwegian side, there was a difficult stretch of the road near Umskaret. In 2006, a tunnel was opened. It was financed by Norway, but players on both sides of the border benefited. A large airport is set to open in Mo i Rana in 2025 and will also benefit both sides of the border.
Several other projects have been proposed, such as the link over the Kvarken Strait. The ferry is run by the Umeå and Vaasa municipalities, which also own the harbours. A fixed link between Umeå and Vaasa could reduce the travel time to one hour, with no waiting time. Other projects under discussion are an extended rail link from Storuman to the Norwegian coast, electrification of the existing rail link from Hällnäs to Storuman and an airline route from Umeå to Hemavan or the forthcoming airport in Mo i Rana.
The Kvarken Strait – E12 corridor to Mo i Rana
The approximately 500-km-long corridor from Vaasa in Finland, via Umeå and Hemavan in Sweden, through to Mo i Rana in Norway involves three countries and potentially all modes of transportation. Interaction across the two borders, the Kvarken Strait and the Scandinavian Mountains has long been an important aspect of life in the region. The corridor is connected by the TEN-T comprehensive European road E12, the Wasaline ferry, a joint harbour company for Umeå and Vaasa, a railway in Vaasa and from Umeå harbour to Storuman, and five airports. A new airport is under construction in Mo i Rana. There is ongoing discussion regarding improved connections (e.g. more ferries or a fixed link) over the Kvarken Strait, larger freight yards, internal air connections between the airports of the region and improved rail and road standards.