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Hvalfjörður Tunnel

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Title: Hvalfjörður Tunnel  
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Hvalfjörður Tunnel

Hvalfjörður Tunnel
South entrance
Location Western Region and Capital Region, Iceland
Route 1
Work begun 1996
Opened 1998
Operator Spölur
Traffic Automotive
Vehicles per day 5,500
Length 5.770 km (3.585 mi)
Number of lanes 2-3
Highest elevation 15 m (49 ft)
Lowest elevation −165 m (−541 ft)
Grade 8.1% (max.)

Hvalfjörður Tunnel (Hvalfjarðargöng in Icelandic) is a road tunnel under the Hvalfjörður fjord in Iceland and a part of Route 1 (Iceland's ring road). It is 5,770 m long and reaches a depth of 165m below sea level. Opened on 11 July 1998, it shortens the distance from Reykjavík to the western and northern parts of the island by 45 km. Passing the fjord now takes 7 minutes instead of about an hour before.

Spolur was the company that constructed, and is now the owner and operator of the tunnel, while the Verkís company handled almost all of the design. This project was a milestone in Icelandic construction as it was the first private finance initiative without direct funding by the state treasury. It is also the only tunnel where tolls are charged.

Safety issues

The Hvalfjörður Tunnel received a bad rating in the 2010 European tunnel test, which is carried out annually by the German automobile club ADAC. Different aspects were criticized and are also mentioned in the EuroTAP test (see external links), especially the weak lighting, absence of an automatic fire alarm system, too weak ventilation in case of a fire and a far distance to the next fire station (28 km). There are alcoves every 500m to facilitate turning around, and the storage capacity for water leakage is 2,000m3.

Several improvements are announced for the next years.


The construction of the tunnel was started in 1996, and completed in 1998 for the cost of about 5,000 million ISK (70 million USD). The tunnel was designed for annual average daily traffic of 5,000 vehicles.

While the sub-sea tunnel deepest point is 165m below sea level, the deepest sea depth is 40m, and the minimum rock coverage is 40m.


Currently (May 2012) the toll for vehicles less than 6m in length is 1.000 ISK. Motorcycles and larger vehicles have different tolls respectively. There is no pedestrian option. This money goes to pay for the construction of the tunnel by Spolur, and when the investment has been fully repaid the tunnel will become property of the Icelandic administration.

The original plan assumed it would take 20 years (until 2018) to pay back the cost of building the tunnel and that the tunnel would be turned over to the state at that point but traffic has proved to be significantly higher than originally projected. The volume of traffic is so high that the operator of the tunnel has suggested building a new tunnel alongside the current one since traffic is reaching the threshold mandated by European regulation (10,000 vehicles daily) where traffic in opposing directions is meant to be separated.


North entrance.
Middle of the Hvalfjörður tunnel.
Exit of the tunnel.

See also

External links

  • 2010 test results of Hvalfjörður Tunnel by EuroTAP (European Tunnel Assessment Programme)
  • Hvalfjörður Tunnel Transportation and Planning by Verkís

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