Photo: Erik Odiin, unsplash.com
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
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.