Boring goodness – Tunneling in Norway

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.

  Norway Switzerland New   Zealand
Total   tunnel length 750km 220km 12km
Total   tunnels >1000 ? ?
Area 385,252 sqkm 41,285 sqkm 268,021 sqkm
Population 5,000,000 7,900,000 4,400,000
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).


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10 Responses to Boring goodness – Tunneling in Norway

  1. Tim says:

    Have you been through Lærdal Tunnel yet? Sounds like a must.

  2. admin says:

    Of course! It’s really, really long – like driving from the auckland CBD all the way to Kumeu. Here’s someone’s video:

  3. david says:

    Stupid National/ACT government cancelling the Waterview connection tunnel :-(.

  4. david says:

    Actually it looks like things have changed again and it is going to be tunneled with an “Earth Pressure Balance Machine” instead of the Cut’n’Cover road that Conor English wanted. I need to find out more, but there may be more tunnel kms to add to NZs total.

    • Michelle says:

      Wikipedia seems to suggest it’s still on target: , and at 2.4km it will break the national record in length!

      • david says:

        Sure, it’s under budget too ;-). So, the plan is back to tunneling again? After all that song and dance about how it was too expensive for the country, it seems tunneling under is now the cheaper than trying to cut through Auckland’s volcanic rock. I’m glad my neighbourhood isn’t going to be dug up. I’m not sure how I missed the announcement.

  5. Simon says:

    What about all the tunnels under the mountains we have?

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