View Full Version : Transport in the Faroe Islands (and the Effects on Social Geography)

Hauke Haien
Sunday, October 19th, 2008, 11:18 PM

The general history of the Faroese transportation-system can be summed up into four general periods:

19th century and earlier

In the first period stretching from the feudal era into the beginning of the 20th century transportation was made mainly by a combination of rowing boats, walking, carrying, and horse-transport in certain places for upper social classes.

The late 19th century onwards

In the second period, starting in the late 19th century the ferry-connections start to emerge. First through private initiatives and in the 20th century increasingly transforming into public transport further supplemented by the emerging automobilism, especially during and between the two world wars. After World War II a large part of the Faroe Islands was reachable through a combination of ferries and automobiles — frequently private buses and taxis.

The mid 20th century

The third period included a modernization of the ferries, introducing the car-ferries, making it possible to drive between the large centres of the country. Soon it would be possible to drive all the way from the capital of Tórshavn to Vįgur and Tvųroyri in the south, to Fuglafjųršur and Klaksvķk in the north and to the airport at Sųrvįgur in the west. Vįgar Airport was built by the British during World War II; it was reopened as a civilian international airport in 1963.

During this second period the road network was further extended and supplemented by tunnels to distant valleys and firths such as Hvalba, Sandvķk and Noršdepil in the 1960s. Thus the third period stretches from the World War II to around 1970.

The late 20th century onwards

The fourth period starts a completely new development. In the 1973 the first solid connections between two islands was established between Noršskįli on Eysturoy and Nesvķk on Streymoy. In 1976 the new tunnel between Noršskįli and the rest of Eysturoy was established, and together with the bridge this meant that the two largest islands were suddenly connected into what is now referred to as "Meginlandiš" — (the Mainland). In 1975 the causeway between Višoy and Boršoy was established, and in 1986 a similar one between Boršoy and Kunoy was established, and in 1992 the capital Tórshavn was granted a 1st class connection to the northern parts of the country, creating the infrastructural prepositions for a new mobile society on the Mainland.

The newest developments of the Faroese transportation network are the sub-sea tunnels. In 2002 the tunnel between Streymoy and Vįgar — the latter is the airport island — was finished, and in 2006 the Noršoyatunnilin between Eysturoy and Boršoy was finished. A toll (payable at petrol stations) of 170 DKK is charged to drive through these two tunnels, the others are free. Now more than 85% of the Faroese population is mutually reachable by automobile.

The Faroe Islands now have a good internal transport system based on roads, ferries, and helicopters. International transport - entirely based on aircraft and ships — (both for passengers and freight) remains difficult due to high costs, low numbers, long distances, and weather-related difficulties - especially in wintertime. The exporting of domestically produced commodities is hence quite expensive. This limits the development of a commodity-based economy.


There are no railways on the Faroe Islands due to the difficult landscape, small population and the relatively short distances.

Bus services

Roads have become the main transport artery of Faroese society. There is an extensive bus network — with red painted Bussleišin town buses serving Tórshavn and the blue Bygdaleišir buses linking the rest of the islands. Most buses are modern and were built by the Volvo company.

The network of Bygdaleišir blue rural buses (as well as the ferries) is operated by Strandfaraskip Landsins on behalf of the Faroese government (which provides subsidies). The principal route is Tórshavn-Klaksvķk (via the new Noršoyatunnilin tunnel), but other bus routes also serve most villages. Bygdaleišir means "village routes"; individual buses are largely owned by individuals or small companies - but the timetables, fares, and levels of service are set by Strandfaraskip Landsins and the government.

Bussleišin is the name of the urban bus service (with five routes) operated by the Tórshavn municipality. Since 1 January 2007, buses within Torshavn have been completely free of charge to the public. This is intended as an environmentally-friendly programme making people use public transport instead of their cars. As with Bygdaleišir, the actual buses are privately owned, but contracted to Bussleišin.


total: 458 km (1995 est.)

paved: 450 km
unpaved: 8 km

Ports and harbours

* Torshavn
* Klaksvķk
* Tvųroyri
* Runavķk
* Fuglafjųršur

Merchant marine

total: 6 ships (1,000 gross register tons (GRT) or over) totaling 22,853 GRT/13,481 metric tons of deadweight (DWT) (1999 est.)

ships by type: cargo ship 2, petroleum tanker 1, refrigerated cargo ship 1, roll-on/roll-off 1, short-sea passenger 1.

The Faroese ferry company Strandfaraskip Landsins operates a network of ferries (as well as the rural buses). Their largest vessel is the new Smyril, a roll-on/roll-off ferry which maintains the link between Tórshavn and the southern islands. This vessel entered service in 2005.

Since the early 1980s Smyril Line has operated a regular international passenger, car and freight service using a large, modern, multi-purpose ferry - the Norröna. The weekly service links the Faroe Islands with Seyšisfjöršur in Iceland, Lerwick in the Shetland Islands, Bergen in Norway and Hanstholm in Denmark. From June 2007 the ferry will also call at Scrabster, on the mainland of Scotland.


1 (Vįgar Airport) (2005)

Airports - with paved runways
total: 1

914 to 1,523 m: 1

Urbanization and regionalization

The Faroese population is spread across most of the country; it was not until recent decades that significant urbanization occurred. Industrialisation has been remarkably decentralised, and the country has therefore maintained quite a viable rural culture. Nevertheless, villages with poor harbour facilities have been the losers in the development from agriculture to fishing, and in the most peripheral agricultural areas, also known as the the outer islands, there are scarcely any young people left. In recent decades, the village-based social structure has nevertheless been placed under pressure; instead there has been a rise in interconnected "centres" that are better able to provide goods and services than the badly connected periphery. This means that shops and services are now relocating en masse from the villages into the centres, and in turn this also means that slowly but steadily the Faroese population concentrates in and around the centres.

In the 1990s the old national policy of developing the villages (Bygdamenning) was abandoned, and instead the government started a process of regional development (Ųkismenning). The term "region" referred to the large islands of the Faroes. Nevertheless the government was not able to press through the structural reform of merging the small rural municipalities in order to create sustainable, decentralized entities that could drive forward the regional development. As the regional development has been difficult on the administrative level, the government has instead made heavy investments in infrastructure, interconnecting the regions.

Altogether it becomes less meaningful to perceive the Faroes as a society based on various islands and regions. The huge investments in roads, bridges and sub-sea tunnels (see also Transportation in the Faroe Islands) have tied together the islands, creating a coherent economic and cultural sphere that covers almost 90% of the entire population. From this perspective it is reasonable to perceive the Faroes as a dispersed city or even to refer to it as the Faroese Network City.

Sources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transport_in_the_Faroe_Islands / http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faroe_Islands#Urbanization_and_regionali zation

My questions to our Faroese members:

Has this affected the communal spirit in the villages? Do people still feel rooted in their local communities?
How does the older generation evaluate these changes?

Monday, October 20th, 2008, 09:18 AM
My questions to our Faroese members:

Has this affected the communal spirit in the villages? Do people still feel rooted in their local communities?
How does the older generation evaluate these changes?

The underwater tunnels connecting islands have taken a bit of social life away. In the ferries you usually went up to the cafeterias, to have some coffee and to talk with people that you knew onboard. Leirvķk-KLaksvķk ferry is specially a case where this is valid.
Now underwater tunnels have connected those two towns, bringing Klaksvķk closer to the main area. The tunnel has made transport and traveling much more effective.

People from Klaksvķk make jokes about people living in Tórshavn. People from klaksvķk are often accused to be extremely local and anti-tórshavn minded. This is off course only friendly brotherly jokes and are not serious.

So i guess people are somewhat rooted in their local communities.
People from Klaksvķk have another accent than those comming from Tórshavn too.

Eventhow young people sometimes end in fights in the city because of disagreements. There used to be gangs in Tórshavn, klaksvķk and Fuglafjųršur who were competing against each other and enjoyed beating boys up from other towns.

Politicians and people from Klaksvķk as well as other towns are often a bit unsatisfied that too many administrative things are in Tórshavn, and the citizents of Tórshavn enjoy much more of possibilities of public jobs.

But the capital is not the richest place in Faroe Islands.
Eysturoy is the richest part of Faroe Islands, there are most of industries in Eysturoy and lots of companies there.

But i“m not entirely sure what you mean if people are "rooted in their local communities"
I guess what i“m most in doubt is what you exacly mean by "rooted" - but maybe this has explained some of your questions?