E16 still closed at burned-out tunnel

Bookmark and Share

UPDATED: Norway’s cross-country E16 highway, the main route between Oslo and Bergen, remains blocked midway after a Swedish tour bus caught fire inside its lengthy tunnel running between Gudvangen and Flåm/Aurdal. A bigger ferry may help motorists get around the roadblock, but state highway authorities are recommending alternative routes after announcing that the highway was likely to remain closed “for several weeks.”

Traffic backed up quickly when a bus caught fire inside the Gudvanga Tunnel on the main E16 highway over the mountains of southern Norway on Monday. Now the E16 is closed at the tunnel that between Voss and Lærdal and likely to remain so for several weeks. PHOTO: Norwegian Public Roads Administration

Traffic backed up quickly when a bus caught fire inside the Gudvanga Tunnel on the main E16 highway over the mountains of southern Norway on Monday. Now the E16 is closed at the tunnel that between Voss and Lærdal and likely to remain so for several weeks. PHOTO: Norwegian Public Roads Administration

The E16 is the “preferred route” for heavy vehicular traffic such as buses and trucks. They, along with all other motorists, must now use alternative routes over the mountains that are slower and feature narrower roads, at the height of the tourist season.

The alternative routes include the state highway RV7 over Hardangervidda, the E134 highway over Haukelifjell or state highways RV13 over Vikafjellet and RV55 through Sogndal.

The Norwegian Public Roads Administration (Statens vegvesen) cautioned that the routes over Hardangervidda and Vikafjellet contain steep mountain passes. “Vehicles using these routes must be in good technical condition to avoid overheated brakes or engine failure,” the road officials stated in a press release.

Local tourism interests have placed a larger ferry, on the MF Gulen, on the route between Flåm and Gudvangen to help visitors travel around the scenic area. “This is first and foremost a crisis measure to help the tourism industry,” Rolf A Sandvik of local firm The Fjords, told newspaper Bergens Tidende. He said the ferry can carry 80 buses a day that otherwise may have planned to use the closed tunnel.

While investigators haven’t yet officially determined the cause of Monday’s fire in the Gudvanga Tunnel, it’s believed the bus’ brakes overheated. One witness saw smoke billowing from under the bus before it entered the tunnel at Gudvangen.

Hundreds of Norwegian tunnels are in the process, meanwhile, of being upgraded with improved ventilation, safety systems and other improvements, to lower the risk of accidents and fires. The authorities announced that roadside inspectors will be posted at the mountain passes while the Gudvanga Tunnel is closed, “to prevent heavy vehicles from running into problems and to offer advice to drivers.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund