Tomas Hallberg, second on the left and State Secretary Sergey Aristov next beside him.
The role of the Barents Region in the development of the Euro-Asiatic transport corridor was one of the main topics of the annual Transport Investment and Logistics Conference held in St. Petersburg . The current chairmanship of the Transport group in the Barents Cooperation was one of the key partners of the conference and the chairman of the group, State Secretary Sergey Aristov, opened up the conference.
Aristov elaborated the word corridor and gave some good examples what he means a traffic "corridor" should be. One of the best examples is the new train from Helsinki to St. Petersburg and Moscow. It is not only the transport itself that’s cut the travel time but the procedure when customs and passport control from both Finnish and Russian side is managed during the ride. The 450 km distance now days take only three and a half hours. You have to look at the holistic view and include all moments of the journey - that is what we mean a traffic corridor should be.
The world is in constant change, and that goes for big infrastructure projects too, such as ports. The general director for the port of Ust-Luga , Mikhaeil Talanenko, gave a good example in his speach. The port, 130 km from St. Petersburg, has been growing very fast during the last decade, and has become one of Russia’s most important cargo ports. 10 Years ago, we received 800 000 import cars and today the number is down to less than 100 000. The reason is very simple. They international car manufactorers are now producing their cars in Russia. As a commercial port we have to live with the changes and actively look for other costumers instead..
In his speech, Tomas Hallberg from International Barents Secretariat elaborated what tourism could mean for the Barents region developing transport corridors giving examples from the Visit Arctic project. He gave some examples where he compared the flight routes between Moscow, Oslo and Stockholm with Kirkenes/Oslo.
-Tomorrow there are two direct flights from Moscow to Oslo. There is one direct flight from Moscow to Stockholm and only one direct flight from St. Petersburg to Stockholm. These are major cities with millions of people. The same day there are 3 direct flights from Kirkenes, 10000 inhabitants to Oslo. Why is it so? I will not try to explain why there are not more flight connections between our Nordic capitals, Hallberg contiunied. Instead I want elaborate the Kirkenes example.
The theory is spelled with one word – tourism. That’s the reason why we have 3 direct flights to Oslo daily and 2 other connections every day to the capital: Hurtigruten. Hurtigruten is the famous cruise line sailing the Norwegian coastline from Bergen to Kirkenes. They transport 250 000 tourists every year. Many of the passengers who travel by Hurtigruten do it just one way and make their way back by plane. The tourists form the base for the flight traffic to the capital. The tourism contributions to the northern regions does not only directly profit hotels, restaurants etc. but also give local business, civil servants and common people many daily connections to the capital, to the rest of Norway and out in the world.
Many of the tourists coming from Japan, China or other faraway travellers want to visit more than one country. Could we use this to our advantage? Could the tourist flow be the reason to open up new flights routes between the Barents regions to be used for business and common people? Would it be possible to share the tourists in order to benefit all of us in the north?
I know there has been a positive discussion from Russian side with Hurtigruten for them to prolong their journeys to Murmansk. If that happened, would it be possible for the passengers to fly back to Norway, even if they had only 72 hours permission to stay? If that wasthe case, we would properly have a new east-west flight connection as soon as there amount of cruising passengers would be high enough.