Norway has long had among the slowest roads in Europe. Now a new study indicates that even drivers in Albania can get from one city to another in their country faster than drivers in Norway.
Newspaper Aftenposten reports that fresh figures obtained from the Information Council for Road Traffic (Opplysningsrådet for Veitrafikken, OFV) shows that Norwegian drivers can only drive at an average speed of 65 kilometers per hour (kph) between the country’s large cities.
That’s down from 67.9 kph in 2008, and places Norway at the bottom of the list of 12 European countries surveyed.
Last year Norway placed next to the bottom, and Albania was slowest. But road improvements in Albania have helped speed traffic up in the impoverished country, with average speeds rising from 64.6 kph in 2008 to 68.1 kph in 2009.
The speed reduction in Norway can be blamed on calculation methods, posted speed limits or road conditions, “but regardless, the actual development here defies transport policy goals,” Vilrid Femoen of OFV told Aftenposten.
Road building and maintenance are matters of public debate in Norway. Motorists are often frustrated and politicians claim they aim to improve roads, making them safer and faster. They continue to opt, however, for an expensive piecemeal approach to road building, and even heavily trafficked stretches with high accident rates can go neglected for years. Many of Norway’s highways, notes Femoen, are only narrow two-lane roads, lacking even a center line.
“A lot could be improved simply by widening roads and dividing them with a yellow line to prevent passing,” she said.
Politicians also blame the poor roads on difficult mountain territory and fjords that need to be crossed, but Switzerland, for example, also has had to cope with mountains and has much better roads.
With poor Albania now even surpassing wealthy Norway, state highway officials also point to geographic challenges in Norway, along with political choices. A good highway system in Norway has never been a high political priority.
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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