Norway’s popular tourist road Stalheimskleiva may close permanently

FLÅMSBANENPhoto: Sara Johannessen Meek / NTB

Did you ever drive along Stalheimskleiva, one of the steepest roads in Northern Europe? If you haven’t yet, then chances for a future endeavor are bleak. Impacted by mass tourism, the popular Norwegian 170-year-old road is likely to be closed permanently for all kinds of traffic.

Temporary ban not enough

The Norwegian Public Roads Administration (NPRA) that takes care of operations and maintenances of all roads in the country told Norway Today that last summer Stalheimskleiva had been closed due to a landslide.

The NPRA had temporarily put in place a ban on heavy vehicles, including tourist buses, during maintenance work and decided to lower the maximum allowable axle load on vehicles to six tonnes. This had allowed minibusses and private cars to still use the road.

This year the administration has decided the temporary ban is not enough as the road’s status is not good. Stalheimskleiva will not be open for any vehicles.

“We have experienced that even private cars and light minibusses put too much of a strain on this road. Stalheimskleiva was never built for today’s traffic, and safety must come first,” NPRA senior communications consultant Kari Sund told Norway Today.

What led to the closure

In September last year, a wall around five meters high collapsed, and an excavator with a driver fell 10-15 meters. Eventually, it was found that several places have exposed walls, which can collapse if traffic on the road continues. This led the NPRA to close the road.

“We see that even lighter minibusses and small private cars will be too much of a strain on the road system,” department director Svenn Egil Finden in the NPRA told NRK. The authority believes that the damage is so great that even the movement of small cars may trigger new landslides.

Stalheimskleiva by the E16 has for many years been a popular tourist destination. It has 13 hairpin bends covering two waterfalls, and drivers enjoy the spectacular view of the Nærøydalen valley, a UNESCO World Heritage site, during the drive. Since the road is part of the heritage area, renovation possibilities are limited.

Loss for tourism?

Describing the closure of the road as “unfortunate,” CEO of Fjord Tours Kristian Jørgensen told NRK that it would remove a major tourist attraction from Western Norway.

Nevertheless, he understands the NPRA’s decision. “Safety must come first, so we are probably getting to the point that the road is too used and old.”

“Now that the conclusion is clear, we will look at how we can possibly offer experiences that are different. Or if there are other things people can experience on this stretch,” Jørgensen added.

Finden believes that tourism will be able to find a better way to show tourists the area and the view.

“We could only allow pedestrians and special vehicles for the elderly and people with disabilities, for example, so that they can also experience Stalheimskleiva,” he concluded.

Source: #Norway Today / #NorwayTodayTravel

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