The project is part of the Baltic Sea Region (BSR) INTERREG III B Neighbourhood Programme Measure / Priority: Measure 2.2 'Creating sustainable communication links for improved spatial integration' that belongs to one of the three different strands of the European Community Initiative INTERREG III.
The programme is part-financed from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) covering the period 2000-2006. Strand B of the INTERREG Initiative supports transnational co-operation to enhance balanced and sustainable development of the European territory. Rail and road transports in the Northern Europe and the southern part of the Nordic Countries are presently severely inhibited by congestion, causing traffic infarcts, high pollution, slow transport speeds and a threat to economic competitiveness. These problems are becoming more severe with the increasing traffic load.
North East Cargo Link (NECL) is aiming at promoting and marketing new, speedy and safe intermodal transport system across the Mid-Nordic countries with connection from East and West.
NECL is supported by and works in close co-operation with private enterprises, national authorities and municipalities in Sweden, Norway and Finland which also have connections with interests in Russia and Great Britain. Briefly, NECL aims to launch an overall strategy for fully developed sustainable transport solutions and intermodality in the Mid-Nordic Region.
The strategy contains, among other things, complete investment and financial plans based on feasibility studies for identified bottlenecks and missing links along the corridor.
In order to make the aimed transport system across the Mid-Nordic countries fully operable, a certain number of measures have to be taken. The existing means of transport in the region are characterised by an unbalanced rail infrastructure and the limitations in interoperability between the separate countries national rail systems.
The largest missing links are a lack of close connections between sea and rail and effective intermodal nodes. NECL will study and create alternative transport solutions that reorient the mental map to include an East-West perspective in the Mid-Nordic Region. The purpose is to influence the policy makers in the respective country with the aim to make an impact on the public institutions long-term infrastructure investment plans, to remove identified bottlenecks and limits in the transport chain.
The project is also aiming to establish business networks between interested partners in the participating countries, Great Britain and Russia. Market and goods flow studies will identify potential cargo-flows and business opportunities. A portal will be created for freight and business on the Internet in order to facilitate ordering of transport services, promoting trade in the Mid-Nordic Region and guiding business to emerging and interesting markets in Russia and Europe.
Measures to eliminate identified border problems and other obstacles for trade and transport will be taken.
Achievements of the project so far 'A Regional functionality analyses for the Mid Nordic Region' has been procured and presented in the early autumn 2005. Goods-flows in the Mid Nordic area with respect to volumes, type of goods and destination have been investigated Further a survey of the status of the transport corridor is under way as regards sea, rail, and road transport. This will especially focus on deficiencies in capacity, standard, bottlenecks and missing links.
NECL has co-ordinated the Swedish stakeholders, including a number of public authorities and industries, in a strong paper in favour of upgrading the Meråker railway addressed to the Norwegian Railway Authority in response to the proposed action programme for investments in the Norwegian railroads.
The most severe shortcoming in the Mid Nordic Region has been the missing ferry link over the Baltic Sea between Västernorrland in Sweden and Ostrobothnia in Finland. The work NECL put into the solving of this problem has born fruit in a new ferry line for goods (and passengers) between Vasa in Finland and Sundsvall in Sweden. NECL has with regional and local interests participated in a call to the Finnish Parliament with the purpose to underline the importance of straightened the stretch of road between Ätheri - Multia on road 18 between Vasa and Jyväskylä. NECL has held a number of consultations with Chambers of Commerce in the Mid Nordic area. A lasting institutional co-operation between the Chambers of Commerce in the Mid Nordic Region in development issues of joint interest is one of the objectives within the NECL project. ('The Chamber snake' ).
As far as the westbound connections are concerned NECL has developed contacts with representatives for strategic harbours, shipping companies, terminals, transport authorities and trade and industry at the English east coast. Regarding the eastbound connections from the Mid Nordic area the project has made a pre-study that illustrates the goods flows from the area to Asia. NECL has, based on the results from the pre-study investigated the possibilities to use the Trans Siberian railway for exports to and from Asia.
By the autumn 2005 the main part of the basic information will be available in order to constitute a Strategy for the Mid Nordic Transport Corridor. Cost estimates for necessary remedial measures in the transport infrastructure will be made and presented. An estimate of what volumes, what kind of goods and by which means of transport can be transported in the corridor provided necessary deficiencies in the infrastructure are taken care of. Resources for goods handling in harbours and other existing terminals are documented as well as an estimate of needs for investments in these and if necessary in new kombi terminals. Environmental impacts for choices of different means of transport will be illustrated to a certain extent by emission studies. Questions related to border crossing problems will be taken up in the work with the strategy.
A final prototype of an Internet portal for freight and trade will be presented. By the turn of the year 2005 / 2006 a first draft of the Strategy can be presented as a base for discussions with the industries, the transport sector, transport authorities, political bodies on local, regional and national level in the different participating countries. After this broad circulation for consideration by the parties concerned a final proposal for an overall strategy for development and marketing of the Mid Nordic Transport Corridor will be worked out.
The Strategy addresses itself to political decision makers and transport authorities for consideration in their making up their long term planning for the infrastructure. The non-profit organisation North East Cargo Link alliance (NECLA) will take over the results and the responsibility for the further work to promote the development of the Mid Nordic Transport Corridor after the closure of the Interreg project.