Norwegians like tunnels. And bridges. But, especially tunnels.
Tunnels here come complete with underground roundabouts and intersections. The mountain behind our apartment has a criss-cross of several tunnels bored through it, all of which are longer than the longest tunnel in NZ. And, they´re still boring more.
Norway´s love of tunnels seems to be correlated with the discovery of Ekofisk in 1969, and this love affair is still growing stronger by the day. Wherever we go we see yet more massive holes bored into mountains, to the point that you begin to question the mountains’ structural integrity.
Coming from a country with relatively few tunnels, the novelty of driving into sub-aqueous or subterranean territory still hasn´t worn off.
In fact, you can tell New Zealand, although fond of tunnels, is rather deprived when reading the NZ Wikipedia tunnel page, which contains road, rail, pedestrian, disused, and the Devonport battery tunnels all on the one page (although the page does exclude caves). We also proudly list tunnel length to the nearest 10m, rather than 100m as the world’s big tunnel players.
Norway, it seems is the world boring expert when it comes to building road tunnels, both in terms of ventilation, boring, and safety. For every 120km of road, 1km is either sub-aqueous or subterranean. The world’s longest road tunnel is 24.5km in Laerdal, not far from Bergen. Norway also has the most tunnels over 3km in length (54 of a world total of 178). (In second place is Japan, followed by Switzerland).
So, to put it into perspective, here’s a wholesome boring tabular comparison.
|Total tunnel length||750km||220km||12km|
|Area||385,252 sqkm||41,285 sqkm||268,021 sqkm|
|Road network size||93,509 km||71, 454 km||93,951 km|
|Longest road tunnel||Lærdal Tunnel – 24.5 (World’s longest)||Gotthard Tunnel – 16.4 (World’s 3rd longest)||Lyttelton Tunnel – 1.97|
|Tunnels over 3km in length||54||?||0|
|Tunnel to Road Ratio||1km per 120km||1km per 360km||1km per 7829km|
|Tunnel to Person Ratio||1km per 6,666 people||1km per 36,000 people||1km per 366,000 people|
|Tunnel to Area Ratio||1km per 513 sqkm||1km 324 sqkm||1km per 22,300 sqkm|
Conclusion: Tunnels are cool.
Note: These statistics only apply to road tunnels, and don’t include rail tunnels, which are more difficult to collect, and also require less engineering technology to build – so not as exciting. Of course given that Norway’s rail network is not particularly large, the honor of having the most extensive rail tunnelling metrics would probably go to Switzerland or Japan (although maybe I should confirm in a separate blog post).