Calls For A Highlands Driving Permit

Páll Jónsson, a guide and a policeman, suggest putting a stop to illegal off-road driving by issuing a special highland driving license, RÚV reports. Páll asserts that authorities are not doing enough to stop off-road driving in the highlands, which is extremely damaging to nature. Not only are the tracks an eyesore, but they can lead to environmental destruction as off-road driving can lead to destruction of land and soil erosion.

Páll suggests that the whole of the highlands be turned into a national park, and that those who wish to travel there obtain a special driving license. The eager travellers would have to watch an instructional video and pay a fee of 5000 krónur for the special highland driving permit.

Off road driving has been increasingly reported this summer, with 10 incidents alone reported in June. Many incidents go unreported, however, and authorities have stipulated heavy fines for violators.

“For me personally, it hurts to go to Landmannalaugar in its current state – in this beautiful landscape it hurts to see how things have become. And once you enter Skeiðarársandur, everything has been driven over. I can’t remember the conditions being worse than now, alongside the road”, Páll commented.

Páll asserts that Icelanders are somewhat lost when it comes to preventing off-road driving. “We put some stickers into the rental cars and, sometimes, we have staff ask the drivers to not drive off-road. This is nonsense and it clearly doesn’t work”.

His plans account for aspiring highland drivers to sit through a 15-minute long instructional video, if they wish to rent a car and intend to go to the highlands. The video would have a national park ranger and a police offer explain the rules of highland driving to travellers. Once travellers have sat through the video they would pay the one time fee, which would then be fed back into the system to pay for policing the highland area, rescue team services, national park rangers, and even public toilets.

“The current system is not enough. It’s been tried and tested and it doesn’t work”, Páll finally stated.

Women Make Up 70% of University of Iceland Graduates

Lilja Alfreðsdóttir, the Icelandic Minister of Education, Science, and Culture, looks to restructure the Icelandic school system, RÚV reports. In an interview with radio station Rás 1, Lilja revealed that work is already afoot to stage a long-term plan for education in the country until 2030.

Lilja believes that Icelandic authorities should look to Norway as a guiding light for education reform, as Norwegian authorities have just finished an extensive reboot of their educational system. “I am meeting with the Norwegian minister of education next week to familiarize myself thoroughly with their improvements. Those of us who are formalizing these strategic plans have to take in account the best from other countries.”

There are many challenges ahead, such as the fact that 70% of university graduates from the University of Iceland are women. “One problem we face that differs from the other Nordic countries is the substantial dropout rate at high-school level, where we are witnessing change. We are also experiencing a lot of change at university level. I was at the yearly meeting of the University of Iceland yesterday where it was revealed that 70% of graduates are women.”, Lilja commented.

Lilja’s plans will attempt to tackle the problem of manning teacher positions in the country, as well as taking an extensive look into the Icelandic student loan system. The minister also mentioned the education for those students whose native tongue is not Icelandic. “They have difficulties in our education system and we cannot overlook that. I believe firmly that education is for all, and all children in Iceland”, Lilja stated.

The graduation rates for men in the University of Iceland have gradually declined since the turn of the millennium, according to Vísir. “It’s a worrying state of affairs, that men are enrolling in lower numbers to the university. It’s a trend that needs to be turned, but it will take time”, Jón Atli Benediktsson, the president of the University of Iceland commented in 2017. Nearly all divisions in the University of Iceland feature women in the vast majority, expect for the division of engineering and natural sciences. “It matters that the society has is balanced in terms of gender in the labour market. That there isn’t a gender gap in the labour market in certain fields. That men and women can attend to the same subjects. And that especially applies to academic subjects such as in the university”, Jón Atli stated.

University of Iceland graduation rates

2001 – 41% of graduates were male

2006 – 34% of graduates were male

2017 – 28% of graduates were male

Hvalfjörður Tunnel Toll to End in September

It is expected that the toll collection in the Hvalfjörður tunnel will cease by the end of September, Skessuhorn reports. The tunnel, which opened on the 11th of July, 1998 at a cost of 70 million $, has greatly shortened distances for drivers since opening. The private company Spölur is now finishing its last tasks, such as cleaning the tunnel along with regular maintenance. Barring any last-minute changes, the company will hand over the reins of the tunnel to the Icelandic Road Administration by the end of September, 2018.

Original plans projected that it would take around 20 years to recover the costs of building the tunnel through toll fares. The private company Spölur has handled the collection of the toll fares hitherto, as well as taking charge of all repairs and security in the tunnel. Traffic volume has been significantly higher than originally projected, so it has been clear for some years that the tunnel has been paid for. There were even plans afoot at one point to construct another tunnel through the fjord, which would allow traffic in opposing directions to be separated.

The Icelandic Road Administration will now take over the reigns of the tunnel. The previously manned toll booths are expected to be unmanned now, and security will be controlled from The Icelandic Road Administration offices. “The only difference will be that security monitoring will not take place in the booths next to the tunnel, but rather in the monitoring stations of the Icelandic Road Administration in Borgartún, Reykjavík or in Ísafjörður”, G Pétur Matthíasson, the public relations officer of the Icelandic Road Administration commented.

The tunnel cuts through Hvalfjörður fjord, just north of Reykjavík. Previously, drivers had to undertake the arduous trip into the long and winding Hvalfjörður, which was often deemed unpassable due to weather conditions. The time it took to pass through the fjord was shortened from an hour to 7 minutes. The Hvalfjörður tunnel is part of Route 1, and is 5 770 metre-long in total, reaching a depth of 165 metres below sea level.

Those drivers heading to West Iceland, the Westfjords, or the North of Iceland can expect their purse to hurt a little less during their trip to Iceland. Spölur will soon start work to clear up all toll fare subscription accounts.

The toll rates had previously been 1000 króna (9.22 $, 7.98 €) for passenger vehicles. Further information can be found on Spölur’s website – www.spolur.is, as well as the website of the Icelandic Road Administration – www.road.is