Northern Norway Railway to Tromsø ‘Too Expensive’

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Those who have longed for a railway connection to Tromsø in Northern Norway have been left disappointed once again with the release of a new report. Here's the latest plans for transport in the north.

A new report on the much-discussed Northern Norway railway line between Fauske and Tromsø has come up with a price tag of NOK 200 billion. The recommendation is clear–it's “too expensive” to build.

Railway line in Norway.
It's expensive to build new railways in Norway. Pictured here is the Oslo to Bergen line.

The news will surely frustrate supporters of train travel in Norway, who hoped that rail travel would one day be possible all the way from Oslo to Tromsø.

Instead, investment is proposed to strengthen other transport across the region, including improving existing railway lines and roads that are vulnerable to the weather. Read on for the details.

The railway system in Norway

Ever since the Nordland line (from Trondheim to Bodø) was completed in 1962, there has been talk of an extension to Tromsø. Plans were already underway as long ago as the 1970s.

Tverlandet station on Norway's Nordland railway line. Photo: Anders Haukland / Shutterstock.com.
Tverlandet station on Norway's Nordland railway line. Photo: Anders Haukland / Shutterstock.com.

Although the Norwegian railway network only goes as far as north as Fauske and Bodø, there is also a train station in Narvik. However, this line–the Ofoten railway–is connected to the Swedish network.

Proposal for Northern Norway railway

A proposed new line to link Fauske with Tromsø via Navik has long been discussed. Investigations of the feasibility of such a line have been made in 1992, 2011, and most recently in 2019.

The most recent proposal contained several options, including a possible branch line to Harstad. But now the estimated costs have almost doubled for the 370km route.

Proposed options for Northern Norway railway. Photo: Jernbanedirektoratet.
Proposed options for Northern Norway railway. Photo: Jernbanedirektoratet.

Building new transport links in Norway is expensive whether road or rail because of the country's topography. Many tunnels and bridges are required, each of which adds cost.

There's also the issue of the environment. “The development of a Northern Norway Railway will both result in poor socio-economic profitability and negative effects on nature and the environment, climate and reindeer husbandry,” concluded the latest report from the Norwegian Railway Directorate.

The transport plan for Northern Norway

The Norwegian Public Roads Administration, responsible for transport planning, presented the new report on transport needs in Northern Norway today. As part of the planning work, they consulted with the Armed Forces, municipalities, businesses, the Sámi Parliament and young people.

“Involving the young has been very important. They are the ones who will carry the country forward after us,” said Ingrid Dahl Hovland who presented the report at a meeting in Narvik.

Widerøe Dash-8 aircraft in Norway.
Widerøe's Dash-8 aircraft are frequently used in Northern Norway.

The investigation revealed a need for upgrades costing in excess of NOK 100 billion, so that the road network, aviation, shipping and the railways will be fit for purpose up to 2060. Specific plans include:

  • Strengthening of east-west transport corridors in Northern Norway
  • Improvement of the E10 over Bjørnfjell (Norway-Sweden)
  • Improvement of border crossings to Finland
  • Double track on Ofotbanen (Narvik to Sweden railway)
  • Electrification of the Nordland line (Trondheim to Bodø)
  • Improvements to fishing ports
  • Cheaper plane tickets in Northern Norway

A ferry-free E6 in the north has also been heavily discussed. Business lobby group NHO has previously requested such a possibility following large numbers of cancelled departures.

“When we have personnel shortages like now, bad weather or technical problems, Norway is divided in two. It is something we do not accept anywhere else in the country, said Daniel Bjarmann-Simonsen, director of NHO Nordland, to NRK.

Defence needs considered

Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and Sweden and Finland's entry into NATO, seem to have played important roles in the development of the plan.

In the event of any conflict, the corridors to Sweden and Finland, through Northern Norway, would become very important for NATO allies.

In particular, the double track on the Ofotbanen railway from Narvik to Sweden and improvement of the weather-exposed E10 over Bjørnfjell must be prioritised, according to the report.

About David Nikel

Originally from the UK, David now lives in Trondheim and was the original founder of Life in Norway back in 2011. He now works as a professional writer on all things Scandinavia.

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