World Tunnel Congress 2017: Opening speech
Ladies and gentlemen,
Good morning, everyone – and for those of you travelling from abroad - welcome to Norway!
In Norway, we have a fascinating variety of dialects that people have proudly preserved through generations. One of the reasons is that people used to live far apart – cut off by mountains and fjords. In earlier days, the only way to reach each other was to make a strenuous journey – sometimes over several days.
A great transformation came with the building of bridges and tunnels that connected people – geographically and socially. Tunnels made life easier, more interesting and more efficient.
In Norway, we love our tunnels!
They connect the country.
They secure people on the move against falling rocks.
And if a tunnel for some reason is closed, we complain. A lot. But, safety first, of course.
It is hard to imagine a country like this – with our dramatic topography – without tunnels. And it is hard to fully acknowledge the skills, efforts and determination of the engineers and construction workers who built tunnels in earlier times. In 1909, the railway between Oslo and Bergen connected eastern Norway with the west coast for the first time – through 182 tunnels. That’s impressive!
Today, we have around 1100 road tunnels. More than 1000 kilometres of tunnels bring us together across mountains and fjords. The skills of the engineers and construction workers have undergone a massive advancement. Technology has developed rapidly. And still, the challenges the industry is facing may be at least as complex as in the earlier days, just different.
For the first time in history, more than half of the world’s population of 7 billion people live in cities. The number of cars is increasing. The energy demand is increasing. We are faced with a climate situation that forces us to consider the environment in all aspects of life, including city planning, construction, infrastructure and energy supply.
All these areas are highly relevant to your industry.
That means your skills are vital to meet the global challenges we are facing today and in the future. And it means that the scope for your industry’s responsibility is gradually widening – decade by decade.
Over the next few days you will discuss and share ideas on topics that are important to all of us. To all Norwegians, and to all citizens of the world.
I wish you the best of luck!
With these words, I declare the World Tunnel Congress 2017 in Bergen officially open!