Impacts of Tourism

Exploring the Reasons Behind the Absence of a Railway Network

Main image to the post Exploring the Reasons Behind the Absence of a Railway Network

Iceland, renowned for its breathtaking landscapes and natural beauty, is a popular tourist destination, but it lacks a railway network. Despite attracting approximately two million tourists annually, none can travel by train.

Iceland's small size, roughly 2.4 times smaller than the UK, makes it feasible to travel between attractions like the Blue Lagoon and volcanoes using alternative modes of transport. Tourists can rent cars for road trips, take buses, or even hitchhike. However, Iceland remains the only European country without a railway network, besides the Principality of Andorra.

While trains exist in Iceland, they are solely used for transporting goods and have never been available for public use. Discussions regarding the construction of a railway network have occurred among Icelandic authorities, but no concrete plans have materialized.

The country's topography and climate pose challenges to constructing and safely operating a railway network, particularly due to the presence of volcanoes. Additionally, Iceland's small population of 382,000, well-connected road network, and widespread car usage further diminish the need for a railway system.

Tourists are advised to rent cars or utilize the various bus services available throughout the country. Boats can be used to reach remote areas and neighboring islands. However, Iceland once had an operational railway, and the only two remaining trains are preserved at the Árbær Open Air Museum.

Sigurlaugur Ingólfsson, project manager at the museum, revealed that Iceland had an operational railway in Reykjavík for approximately 15 years. The trains were brought by a Danish company contracted to build the harbor. Due to high inflation, Reykjavík purchased the two locomotives.

Plans for further railway use existed, primarily proposed by foreign companies in the late 19th century. These plans received some support from Icelanders but were ultimately vetoed by parliament or failed to pass due to concerns about the companies' trustworthiness.

A proposal to build a railway route between Keflavík International Airport and Reykjavík was terminated in 2003 in favor of a four-lane road between the airport and the city. In 2020, construction was scheduled to begin on a railway line running alongside the road, aiming to reduce travel time between the airport and city to 15 minutes. However, this project never materialized.

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May 21, 2023 | 05:09