Kvarken Region Backed by Strong Arguments - also from the European Perspective
The three-year project NSB CoRe, North Sea Baltic Connector of Regions, has been operating since the spring 2016, with the aim of improving traffic and land use within the North Sea Baltic corridor as part of the transeuropean TEN-T transport network. As NSB CoRe aims to improve the accessibility of the Eastern Baltic Sea Region to freight and passenger traffic, it is also linked with the E12 Atlantica Transport project.
Mr Janne Antikainen, development manager at MDI Ltd in Helsinki, presented the results 14th of March 2018 in Vaasa.
Kvarken Council is, for this reason, one of the project partners, with Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional Council as NSB CoRe’s lead partner in Finland. The participants include 16 partners from Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Germany as well as 40 associated organisations. They are cities, regions, state authorities as well as transport and logistics enterprises.
NSB CoRe focuses on four main themes: Intermodal logistics in freight traffic, long-distance commuting, spatial planning covering the entire corridor with a view towards a joint strategy as well as branding of the Rail Baltica. The ambition is to transform the chain of individual cities along the transport corridor into one functional entity. In order to achieve this, the project produces recommendations for policymakers and organises discussions at various levels within traffic and spatial development.
Bearing in mind this background and NSB CoRe’s connection with the E12 project, there was a need for a study of the Kvarken regions's role in this context. Mr Janne Antikainen has analysed, planned and implemented development policy at regional and national levels for over 20 years, and he was assigned for the job. Mr Antikainen, development manager at MDI Ltd in Helsinki, presented the results at the final conference of the E12 Atlantica Transport project in Vaasa, Finland.
- Actually, one can say that we have carried out a sort of meta-analysis, based on prior research and studies in the area. We have examined the transport corridor in both directions, starting from Vaasa – to the west towards Sweden and to the east and south towards Seinäjoki and Tampere in Finland, in order to identify the strongest arguments for the development of this transport route, Mr Antikainen explains.
Four basic themes were crystallised during the process. The first is the fact that in both cities on their respective sides of the Kvarken Strait there is mutual attraction and interest in one another.
It involves both soft values, such as cultural identity, and hard values, such as competition and expertise. It should be possible to utilise both on each side of the Kvarken Strait without any border obstacles, Mr Antikainen says.
Secondly, the region should be regarded as a joint labour market where labour mobility should be facilitated.
- Further, the geographic area for labour markets can be expanded eastwards with improved and faster connections, Mr Antikainen continues.
This takes us to the third theme, which according to Mr Antikainen, is the heart of the matter: What would the region look like with better infrastructure between Vaasa-Seinäjoki-Tampere, and what would be needed to improve the accessibility and possibilities for commuting between these cities?
Finally, he mentions the region’s welfare as the fourth theme in the analysis.
- How would further improvements in the infrastructure influence the region’s welfare? What is the welfare situation in the Kvarken region now and what could it be in the future?
Mr Antikainen’s personal impression of Vaasa and its surroundings traditionally turning their eyes primarily towards the west has, indeed, turned out to be correct – but what has surprised him is the extent to which the importance of good and fast southward connections are emphasised.
- There is unambiguous demand for direct connections to other cities in Finland. The City of Vaasa has manifested very positive development in recent decades but there is also lurking a certain concern for the future and capability in coping with the competition, Mr Antikainen continues.
As a result of the analysis, the visions are presented as new and unique illustrations and maps which Mr Antikainen hopes shall reach the right persons and, in the long run, lead to good decisions.
- They prompt us to ponder on the region’s development from new perspectives, and shall be available for lobbyists, policymakers and other involved actors, for us to be able to see clearly what should be done to reinforce the region’s attractiveness and link with the rest of Europe, Mr Antikainen concludes.
Mr Mathias Lindström, the Kvarken Council’s director, says that the NSB CoRe project is important because it places the development of the E12 route and the Kvarken crossing in a larger European and global context.
- What we work with concerns primarily the development of our region, but NSB CoRe shows that we are part of a bigger whole, which brings along both possibilities and challenges. The material that we are now producing shall manifest our regional potential and importance whereas NSB CoRe gives us the opportunity to build up alliances and partnerships with other regions and cities, both in Finland and elsewhere in Europe. In the long run, it will improve our region’s visibility and give us broader shoulders at the European level, Mr. Lindström adds.
Text and photo: Anna Sand
E12 Atlantica Transport - The project is a cross-border cooperation between partners in Finland, Sweden and Norway along the E12, focusing on development of a functional multi-modal transport route for goods and passengers, joint strategies for cross-border planning and future cooperation structures.
E12 Atlantica Transport partners
Kvarken Council (Lead part, FI), MidtSkandia (NO), Blå Vägen (SE) Region Västerbotten (SE), Regional Council of Ostrobothnia (FI), Nordland fylkeskommune (NO) Vaasa Regional Development Company VASEK (FI), Umeå Municipality (SE), Vännäs Municipality (SE), Vindeln Municipality (SE), Lycksele Municipality (SE), Storuman Municipality (SE), Infrastruktur i Umeå AB INAB (SE), Rana Utviklingsselskap AS (NO), Rana Municipality (NO), Polarsirkelen Lufthavnutvikling (NO), Port of Mo i Rana (NO), Mo Industripark AS (NO), Alastahaug havnevesen KF (NO), Helgeland Havn IKS (NO)