The three-year cross-border cooperation aimed at developing a long-term and sustainable transport and communication system in the Kvarken region draws to a close by the end of the year, and a new application concerning the next project phase is under way.
The Midway Alignment project’s first phase draws to a close at the end of the year 2015. The project’s various activities are now being finished up and a new application to the EU regarding the second phase is being drafted. Suggestions for this phase consist of investments to road and railway infrastructures, changes and capacity increases in the port infrastructures and the construction of a new ferry – in other words, the solutions explored in phase 1.
The transport route’s development prospects and alternatives have been thoroughly analyzed, debated and weighed during phase 1, and the current solution has been closely discussed with the route’s users. The prognoses suggest that the flow of goods and passengers over the Kvarken will only continue to increase.
– There is a demand for special transports that has proven difficult to meet with the existing ferry and infrastructure. Our current ferry is in good condition and well-maintained, but its capacity is a restricting factor. Moreover, the effectiveness of the loading and unloading processes can be further developed, explains Mr Peter Ståhlberg, Managing Director at NLC Ferry / Wasaline.
Innovations have played a central part in the planning. Remote control of the ferry’s electricity generation and distribution allows lower operative costs and a new service concept. Seasonal variations will be solved by the possibility of modifying the passenger spaces and by a flexible multimodal cargo hold that enables changes in the space according to requirements. The hull has been optimized with the aim of minimizing energy consumption, and the ferry has been equipped with hybrid technology that combines rechargeable batteries and LNG (liquefied natural gas) in order to decrease the environmental and climate impacts of the transports. In addition, the vessel holds the ice class 1A Super, which reduces the need for icebreaker assistance.
– It’s important to remember that the project is not only about the ferry – instead, its aim is to improve the preconditions of the whole transport route. The plans encompass road and railway infrastructure improvements and capacity increases in the port infrastructures, like parking lots for incoming and outgoing cars as well as cargo and railway terminals in both ports. Several improvements in the ports and port connections have already been completed in the first phase, adds Mr Mathias Lindström, Project Manager of the Midway Alignment of the Bothnian Corridor and Director of the Kvarken Council.
The Municipality of Umeå and the City of Vaasa have tenaciously worked in phase 1 in a comprehensive partnership with the economic life, regional organizations and other operators on both sides of the Kvarken.
– We have kept to the budget and schedule in phase 1. The collaboration within the project has been commendable, and I would like to send greetings to all our partners and supporters and thank them for the very good work they’ve done and for the excellent cooperation, Lindström says.
The partnership promises to be versatile even during the finalization of the second phase’s application, which must be submitted in January 2016 at the latest. The phase is expected to start in 2016, with the implementation of measures in 2017 and the conclusion in 2020.
The aim of the project’s first two phases is to improve the transport system in an east-west direction through Northern Europe and, at the same time, connect to the EU’s transport and communication network for its internal markets (Trans-European Transport Networks, TEN-T) and strengthen it. The improved transport route in an east-west direction will facilitate the access of freight and people to e.g. metropolitan areas, Norway’s ice-free ports and the rest of the world. In addition, the Kvarken region will become more accessible. The project is cross-border and multimodal to the highest degree, and it includes railways, roads and seafaring.