It's been three decades since the last passenger train ran between Finland and Sweden. But that looks like it's about to change
Fans of slow travel might soon be able to journey all the way from central Europe, through Sweden and Finland and ending up in Lapland.
Despite sharing a 545-kilometre border, Sweden and Finland's railways are not connected.
But that looks set to change. Plans were announced in 2021 to join the two countries by connecting tracks in Laurila in northern Finland to the nearby Swedish town of Haparanda.
And preparatory work for the electrification of the line to allow this to happen is set to start this month.
It is hoped a cross-border passenger train between the two countries will lead to long-distance travel from the south.
Can you take a train from Finland to Russia or other countries?
Finland had been growing as a tourist destination before the pandemic with over seven million visitors in 2019. Yet despite the fact that the majority come from other European countries, there are currently no cross-border rail passenger routes.
Since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine passenger services to neighbours Russia have been stopped.
The most densely populated areas of Finland and Sweden are in the south where they are separated by the Baltic Sea so a railway has not been viable in the region.
And a proposed Arctic railway connecting Finland to Norway was halted after protests by the Sami community over the impact the project would have on reindeer.
What are the benefits of cross-border rail?
In 2021, rail connections between Haparanda and the rest of Sweden restarted. Once the electrification works between it and Laurila are completed, a passenger service would be able to run, linking Finland to the Swedish town and in turn to the rest of the country.
It’s part of the Laurila–Tornio–Haparanda railway project. The project will electrify the railway and the section crossing the border on the Haparanda side. The project also includes the electrification of railway bridges and other necessary sturctural changes.
The decision to run a passenger train on the line is separate, but according to Finland’s national public broadcasting company YLE, officials are optimistic.
“We will certainly get that transport, because sustainable forms of transport are needed all the time. I want to believe that the transport will start in 2025 or 2026 at the latest, when Oulu is the European Capital of Culture,” Tornio's director of development Sampo Kangastalo said in an interview with the broadcaster.
And the new line could give a boost for tourism in Lapland.
“I think that train travel is something that is more and more in demand, and we haven’t been able to offer that from international destinations so far,” says Nina Forsell, Executive Manager at the Finnish Lapland Tourist Board.
She believes air travel will remain important for the region, but it’s good to be able to offer tourists a choice.