Today, the Main Line (Stambanan) through the North of Sweden is the sole north-south railway line in this region, and as such has to handle the whole country’s need for rail transports through the North of Sweden.
Via the Iron Ore Line (Malmbanan) and the Haparanda Line it also links Sweden’s railway network to those in Norway and Finland. The line has a winding and steep course, meaning that it cannot handle great train weights or high speeds. The upshot is that it cannot be used in a satisfactory way for Sweden’s all-important transports of iron ore, steel and timber. The Main Line’s course through inner Norrland is today strategically advantageous for neither freight nor passenger traffic. Most of the cities are along the coast, so travellers have to make a big detour inland if they want to go by train. As a result, travelling times are long and trains infrequent.
The Main Line through the North of Sweden has one further shortcoming: it is a single-track line throughout its course. This makes it very vulnerable and inflexible. If one train is delayed, all other trains on the line are affected, and in the event of faults or works on the line, all trains on it are at a standstill until it becomes passable again. Diversion onto other lines is not an option as the Main Line is the only railway line running north-south between Luleå and Umeå.
The addition of the North Bothnia Line will improve capacity considerably. The new, modern railway will follow a straighter course and run closer to most target locations, and will furthermore be able to handle heavier loads and higher speeds, which will benefit freight traffic. It will run along the coast, where most of Norrland’s bigger cities are located, allowing it to be used to a greater extent for passenger traffic, both regionally and nationally. Possibilities for commuting to work will be vastly improved. And since the Main Line will remain as an optional track, the vulnerability of the railway will be reduced and capacity will increase further.
Below is a brief description of key events leading up to the establishment of the North Bothnia Line project.
In 2002 the then Swedish Rail Administration (Banverket, the former name of the Swedish Transport Administration) presented a proposal for a long-term plan, the Future Plan for 2004-2015. The investment volume for the entire period was set at SEK 101.5 bn. The proposal included investments in the Haparanda Line in the form of an overhaul of the section between Boden and Kalix, as well as investments in a new line between Kalix and Haparanda intended to improve conditions for cross-border freight transports. In December 2002 the Swedish Rail Administration was specially commissioned by the government to carry out a speedy feasibility study of a new railway line along the coast between Umeå and Haparanda. The study was presented in a report dated 25 April 2003.
A second government commission
The Swedish Rail Administration’s recommendation was to extend the Boden-Kalix-Haparanda line as proposed in the Future Plan for 2004-2015. Regarding a decision on an extension between Umeå and Luleå, the Administration recommended further analysis and preferably also experience of using the Bothnia Line. Studies of a possible phased extension of the section between Umeå and Luleå were also recommended.
The government subsequently commissioned the Swedish Rail Administration to carry out a second feasibility study of a phased extension of the section between Umeå and Luleå. A special Riksdag decision increased the investment framework of the Future Plan 2004-2015 to SEK 107.b bn, of which SEK 3 bn were earmarked for the initial phase of the North Bothnia Line (a new railway between Umeå and Luleå), construction of which was to begin in 2010.
Preliminary studies were carried out for the entire section between Umeå and Luleå. They were completed in the spring of 2006.
Revised future plan
In June 2007 the Swedish Rail Administration submitted a revised Future Plan for 2004-2015 to the government. This did not include the start of construction on the North Bothnia Line. Because construction costs had risen sharply over the past few years, we were forced to concentrate resources nationally, for the completion of projects already underway.
In 2015 Norrbotniabanan AB (the company formed for the construction of the North Bothnia Line), in partnership with the Swedish Transport Administration, applied for co-financing of the continued planning work between Umeå and Skellefteå from the EU’s Connecting Europe Facility. The application was supported by the Swedish government – which was a prerequisite for its being submitted to the EU. SEK 100 million were granted to the project, and a further total of SEK 100 million was contributed by the Norrbotten County Administrative Board (SEK 20 m) and Region Västerbotten (SEK 80 m), via the regional county transport plans.
During 2016 t Approximately 270 km of Approximately 270 km of he Swedish Transport Administration developed a new project organisation for the North Bothnia Line. Its present task is to draw up railway plans for the section between Umeå and Skellefteå, and to design the section between Umeå and Dåva. Work on a railway plan for the latter section was begun in the autumn of 2015, and the goal is to enable a construction start in 2018. However, at the present time there is no financing allocated to the construction of the North Bothnia Line, as the project is not identified in the current national transport plan.