The Faroe Islands is served by an internal transport system based on roads, ferries, and helicopters. As of the 70s, the majority of the population centres of the Faroe Islands have been joined to a single road network, connected by bridges and tunnels.
International transport, both for passengers and freight, remains difficult due to high costs, long distances, and bad weather, especially during the winter. Exporting domestically produced goods is thus expensive; this limits the development of a commodity-based economy.
The general history of the Faroese transportation system can be divided into four periods:
During this first period, transportation was rather primitive; it consisted of row boats, walking, and, in certain places, horse transport (for the upper class).
The second period commenced in the late-19th century, when ferry connections began to emerge. The ferries were largely private initiatives, but they increasingly came to be operated by the public sector. This was supplemented by an emerging culture of automobiles. After World War II, a large part of the Faroe Islands was accessible via ferries and automobiles; private buses and taxis operated as well.
The third period was characterized by modernization. The introduction of the car ferry made it possible to drive between the various city centres of the country. It became possible to drive from the capital Tórshavn to Vágur and Tvøroyri in the south, to Fuglafjørður and Klaksvík in the north, and to the airport at Sørvágur in the west. Vágar Airport was built by the British during World War II; it was reopened as a civilian international airport in 1963. Additionally, the road network was further developed. Tunnels to distant valleys and firths such as Hvalba, Sandvík, and Norðdepil were constructed in the 1960s.
The fourth period saw the emergence of a "mainland" thanks to tunnels and bridges. In 1973 the first bridge between two islands was established between Norðskáli on Eysturoy and Nesvík on Streymoy; in 1976 the new tunnel between Norðskáli and Eysturoy was completed. The Faroes' two largest islands were connected into what is now referred to as "Meginlandið", the Mainland. In 1975 the causeway between Viðoy and Borðoy was constructed, in 1986 a similar one between Borðoy and Kunoy was established, and in 1992 the capital Tórshavn was granted a first-class connection to the northern parts of the islands, creating the infrastructural prerequisites for a 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 Vágar—the latter is the airport island—was finished, and in 2006 the Norðoyatunnilin between Eysturoy and Borðoy was finished. A toll, payable at petrol stations, of 170 DKK (130 DKK in June 2013) is charged to drive through these two tunnels; the others are free. Now more than 85% of the Faroese population is accessible by automobile[clarification needed].
In early 2014 all political parties of the Løgting agreed to the construction of two tunnels: "Eysturoyartunnilin" a tunnel connecting Eysturoy and Streymoy will be completed by 2019 and "Sandoyartunnilin", a tunnel connecting Streymoy and Sandoy, will be completed by 2021. The combined cost of the project is estimated at almost 2 billion DKK, and will be the most expensive construction project in Faroese history. Eysturoyartunnilin is intended to have a roundabout under the sea, and possibly an airport made from tunnel excavation. The three tubes will be 7,1 km, 2,1 km and 1,8 km long joined together by the roundabout. Sandoyartunnilin will be 10,6 km long.
There have been talks about a possible tunnel between Sandoy and Suðuroy. The tunnel would be around 20–25 km long. If completed this would mean that 99% of the Faroes would be connected by road.
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There are no railways on the Faroe Islands due to the difficult landscape, small population and the relatively short distances. A tunnel and rail system supplied a NATO radar installation, now decommissioned, once existed on a mountaintop in the southern part of Streymoy Island.
total: 960 km (600 mi)
There is an extensive bus network, with red and yellow Bussleiðin town buses serving Tórshavn and Klaksvík respectively, and blue Bygdaleiðir (which means "village route") buses connecting the rest of the islands. Most buses are modern and were built by the Volvo company.
The network of blue Bygdaleiðir 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-Klaksvík (via the new Norðoyatunnilin tunnel), but other bus routes also serve most villages. Although individual buses are generally owned by individuals or small companies, the timetables, fares, and levels of service are set by Strandfaraskip Landsins and the government.
Bussleiðin is the name of the urban bus services, active in and around Tórshavn in red colours and in and around Klaksvík in yellow. Tórshavn's Bussleiðin has five routes and is operated by the Tórshavn municipality. Buses within Tórshavn have been completely free of charge since 2007. This is a green initiative intended to persuade people to use public transportation rather than drive their cars. Like Bygdaleiðir, the actual buses are privately owned, but contracted to Bussleiðin. Klaksvík's service commenced in 2014.
The Faroese ferry company Strandfaraskip Landsins operates a network of ferries, in addition to the rural blue buses, called Bygdaleiðir (Villagelines). Their largest vessel is the Smyril, a roll-on/roll-off ferry which maintains the link between Tórshavn and the southern island, Suðuroy. This vessel entered service in 2005. Another ferry, Teistin, a roll-on-off ferry maintains the link between the island Sandoy and the main area, the ferry port on Streymoy is near Kirkjubøur and Velbastaður on the South-West coast of Streymoy. A sub-sea tunnel is planned between Sandoy and Streymoy, it will open in 2021 according to the plan. After that there will not be need of a ferry between the two islands.
Since the early 1980s, Smyril Line has operated a regular international passenger, car and freight service using a large, modern, multipurpose ferry, the Norröna. The weekly service links the Faroe Islands with Seyðisfjörður, Iceland and Hirtshals, Denmark.
Scandinavian Airlines and Atlantic Airways both provide regular scheduled flights to Vágar Airport. Atlantic Airways being the national airline of the Faroe Islands, operating airplanes, helicopters as well as performing search and rescue responsibilities from its base at Vágar Airport. Helicopters provide domestic scheduled transportation and search and rescue activities. Atlantic Airways' airplanes have regular flights to Iceland, Denmark, Norway and Scotland while there are also seasonal flights connecting the Faroe Islands with destinations such as Barcelona, Mallorca and Lisbon. Apart from Atlantic Airways, Scandinavian Airlines has flights connecting the islands with Copenhagen.