Iceland’s Minister of Transport Kristján Möller announced over the weekend that the government had decided not to construct a tunnel connecting the Westman Islands, off Iceland’s southern coast, with the mainland.
Möller told reporters the government would focus on other ways to improve transport to the islands instead, as Bladid reports.
The minister said an agreement had been reached with sea transportation company Eimskip on Friday, which operates the Westman Island ferry Herjólfur, on 15 additional trips every year until the agreement with Eimskip expires in 2010.
The engineering service Sigurdur Thoroddsen hf. (VTS) submitted a cost estimate of a tunnel to the Westman Islands last week.
According to the estimate, the tunnel construction would be risky and cost between ISK 50 and 80 billion (USD 833 million and 1.3 billion, EUR 605 million and 969 million), which the government concluded would be too expensive.
Two other options are being considered to improve transport to the Westman Islands: a new and better Herjólfur or ferry transports to Bakkafjara, south Iceland, which would replace the current docking point in Thorlákshöfn, which is closer to the capital region, but further away from the islands.
According to Hreinn Haraldsson, the managing director of the development department of the Iceland Road Administration, the total cost of a new docking point in Bakkafjara would be ISK 5.6 billion (USD 100 million, EUR 67 million).
“That includes the cost of constructing a new harbor, a new specially designed ferry and a new road to connect to the Ring Road,” Haraldsson said, concluding a new docking point in Bakkafjara would be the best option.
The new ferry would be smaller than Herjólfur and carry about 250 passengers and 50 cars. It could sail between the Westman Islands and Bakkafjara six or seven times a day and each trip would take about 30 minutes instead of the current two hours and 45 minutes.
“In fact, the transport time would not be much longer than driving through a tunnel,” Haraldsson said.