The Regional Council of South Karelia continues to actively advance the development of the international railway connection ”Imatra-Svetogorsk”.
A round of financing was granted for the period April 2018 – April 2019, with the specific aim of developing the Imatra-Svetogorsk connection and related projects. The operation of the project has continued also after that (aiming at low-carbon transport) and it has been funded by another financing instrument.
There is an international railway connection from Imatra Finland, to Svetogorsk Russia. In practice, though, the utilization of this connection is limited by the legal status of the Russian border crossing point, which is currently “simplified, temporary”. This legal status places limitations upon the nature, origin and customs status of goods allowed to pass via this connection. It also forbids regular passenger traffic. Removing these limitations and changing the status of the crossing point to “permanent, international” would require investments into the infrastructure of the crossing point and the railways leading to it. For example, passenger traffic would require a platform for boarding and premises for passenger inspections.
In 2018, the Regional Council of South Karelia completed a procurement, titled: “The action plan for development of international railway connection at Imatra-Svetogorsk BCP.” The procurement was won by a Finnish-Russian alliance of consultants, consisting of the following companies: Ep Logistics Oy, Proxion Plan Oy, NRC grp and Transport Integration grp. Work was completed in April 2019. The aim of this procurement was to provide a basis for further development of the international railway connection, especially for the Ministry of Transport of the Russian Federation.
Removing the limitations in place on this connection would improve the competitiveness of the industrial sector, by opening up a route that is more effective for some shipments, by lowering freight costs, transit times and wagon turnaround. Shifting a portion of passengers to an electric train, who now travel almost exclusively by car or bus, would reduce the environmental impact of tourism.
Opening the railway connection in Imatra would allow a more effective utilization of the newly completed investments into the electrified double track between Losevo and Kamennogorsk in Russia. The EU’s TEN-T network by rail ends at the EU exit point Vainikkala, not far southward from Imatra. Vainikkala is often congested, and it is also inconveniently located for some enterprises. Opening Imatra would alleviate these issues.
An improved connection from Imatrankoski to the border and from Svetogorsk to the new Russian “freight rail of the Isthmus” would add to the value of the ongoing improvements to the “Karelian rail”, and would be a logical continuation of the “Luumäki-Imatra-border of Finland” project. The Finnish Infrastructure Agency has prepared the General Plan for this project, and its first phase is estimated to cost 45 M€. The phase would include electrification of the entire rail segment from the border, moving the railway yard to Pelkola, and a triangle track connection to the Karelian rail.
Because of the project’s international nature, the support of the Government of Finland, especially of the Finnish Ministry of Transport and Communications, is vital so that the project can be included in the 12-year transport system plan and in budgetary and framework decision making and to ensure that the project does not stall in the Russian Federation.