The signage by the new Vaðlaheiði tunnel in North Iceland, or the lack thereof, has been criticised for not indicating that an alternate, toll-free route is available, RÚV reports. Representatives of the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration say additional signage will be installed, but assert the current signs were placed to indicate the shortest and safest route.
Vaðlaheiði tunnel opened this past December, two years later than originally scheduled. When driving east from Akureyri, signs indicating Húsavík and Egilsstaðir point drivers toward the tunnel road, while the alternative Víkurskarð road simply indicates the towns of Grenivík and Svalbarðsströnd. There is no sign indicating that the Víkurskarð road also continues on to Húsavík and Egilsstaðir, and unlike the tunnel, is toll free. Similar signage is lacking when approaching the tunnel from the east, toward Akureyri.
The Road and Coastal Administration has decided to add such signs this summer on both sides of the tunnel which will indicate the toll-free route via Víkurskarð. Einar Pálsson from the Administration says the signs will be easily adaptable, making it possible to remove the indications when Víkurskarð is closed during the winter. The organisation has not decided whether Víkurskarð road will be regularly ploughed this winter, now that the tunnel route is available.
Drivers stop for information
The tunnel’s online payment system has also received its share of criticism. The tunnel toll cannot be paid physically on location. Drivers are instead required to pay online for a single trip or register to be automatically charged for their journeys. The toll must be paid within three hours of travelling through the tunnel, otherwise it will be charged to the individual under whose name the vehicle is registered, with an additional ISK 1,000 charge.
Valgeir Bergmann, the tunnel’s director, says that while initially it was mostly Icelanders who were calling for assistance with registering themselves in the system, most calls now come from foreign travellers. An oft-repeated comment is that the tunnel lacks a parking lot or area where cars can pull over to read the information on the signs more closely. Such areas are now being constructed on both sides of the tunnel, though Valgeir asserts that they should not be necessary – as travellers are encouraged to register and pay the tunnel toll before setting off on their journey. He adds that there is a joint responsibility among car rental companies and tourism companies to inform foreign tourists about the toll and its payment methods.