Why motorway lanes in Norway could get narrower

The government is to allow construction of new four-lane dual carriageway roads with smaller lanes to be allowed on some stretches.

Why motorway lanes in Norway could get narrower
Illustration photo: Bernt Rostad/Flickr

Four-lane roads in Norway could soon be built on quieter stretches, but with smaller lanes than busier motorways. Roads termed ‘four-lane' (firefeltsveier) have four lanes in total – in other words, two in each direction.

Currently, roads which see traffic of between 6,000-12,000 vehicles daily are built as two or three-lane roads, but four-lane roads are now to be permitted on stretches of road with this type of traffic flow, Norwegian news agency NTB reports.

Four-lane roads with these traffic levels will be required to have a total width of 19.0 to 21.5 meters in total, including emergency lane widths of between 1.5 and 2 metres, according to NTB’s report. The speed limit of the four-lane roads will be a maximum of 110 kilometres per hour.

New regulations will make also it possible to build narrower four-lane roads on stretches with traffic of 12,000-20,000 vehicles daily. On these roads, the total width must be 20.0-23.0 metres, including emergency lanes of 2-2.75 metres. The speed limit for these roads is also 110 kilometres per hour.

“We are interested in listening to the experts. That’s why we follow the recommendations of the Norwegian Public Roads Administration (Statens vegvesen) on introducing the option of building narrow four-lane roads. This gives greater flexibility for extending Norwegian roads and can increase the economic benefit for society of several projects,” transport minister Knut Arild Hareide told NTB.

“As such, we will get more for everyone’s money,” Hareide added.

READ ALSO: Why Norway is warning drivers about 'egg-shaped' bends

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Why now could be a good time to buy a new car in Norway

New car sales in Norway have recently taken a hit, and as the market cools off, it might present several good opportunities to those shopping for a new car.

Why now could be a good time to buy a new car in Norway

In June, there was a notable decline in the sale of new cars in Norway, and the industry believes the total decline will amount to roughly 20 percent in 2023.

The dip in sales is greatest for the most expensive electric SUVs, the premium market segment, where new vehicles often post upwards of 700,000 kroner.

Sales of BMW, Audi, and Mercedes vehicles are down 40-50 per cent compared to their peak years, but the worst dip was registered by Porsche, which saw a decrease of 83 percent.

What is causing the sales slump?

According to industry veterans and car dealerships, there are several reasons for the adverse developments in the market.

Most blame increased interest rates (and, therefore, more expensive loans) and recent tax and fee hikes.

“The fee increases have hit us harder than many others,” Morten Scheel of the dealership group Autozentrum Holding told the newspaper Finansavisen, commenting on Porche’s figures.

Porsche has had to lay off employees in Norway due to the low turnover.

Communications director Marius Tegneby at BMW Norway told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that the introduction of VAT on electric cars also had a strong effect on car sales.

“After two years of particularly high new car sales, 2023 will be marked by the introduction of VAT on expensive electric cars, a changed competition landscape, a general pressure on prices, and from July 1st, new lending regulations,” Tegneby said.

The effect of high interest rates

When interest rates in Norway rise, it becomes more expensive for consumers to borrow money to finance their new car purchases. Higher interest rates thus lead to higher monthly payments or increased overall loan costs.

Øyvind Solberg Thorsen, the director of the Road Traffic Information Council (Opplysningsrådet for veitrafikken), believes a lot of people are probably in over their heads due to loan repayments becoming more expensive.

He told NRK that, in his opinion, the many interest rate increases are a good explanation of why people are now choosing cheaper car models or refraining from buying a new car.

“The expensive electric SUVs are now being replaced by somewhat cheaper models that go for 500,000 to 600,000 kroner, which are good enough for most people.

“Also, many people are in over their heads and have chosen to sell their expensive cars,” Solberg Thorsen said, noting that, therefore, some people have decided to reduce the financial burden by putting their expensive electric SUVs on the used car market.

READ MORE: Six key things to know about buying a used car in Norway

Is this a good time to buy a new car?

The slowdown in car sales has caused well-known car brands to reduce the price of new cars. First up was Tesla, which sharply cut the Model Y and 3 prices in January.

In mid-June, Møller Bil, one of Norway’s leading car dealerships, reduced the price of the ready-to-deliver Skoda Enyaq by 150,000 kroner, and soon after, Volkswagen ID. 4 and 5 were also marked down and were up to 140,000 kroner cheaper.

“These discounts are being offered for normal family cars that go for 500,000 or 600,000, so it can really start to have an impact,” Solberg Thorsen added.

So, if you’re thinking of buying a new car in Norway, several factors are working in your favour at the moment. Firstly, as the demand for new cars decreases due to higher interest rates, dealerships may become more willing to negotiate and offer discounts.

With fewer customers in the market, you, as a buyer, could have more leverage to negotiate a better price or secure additional perks.

Secondly, in response to reduced demand, automakers will likely lower the prices of their new car models to stimulate sales. This can make new cars more affordable for buyers, especially if the decrease in vehicle prices outweighs the increase in borrowing costs caused by rising interest rates.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that – as Norway’s central bank (Norges Bank) is planning more interest rate hikes – if you decide to take out a loan to buy a new car, you should expect your loan repayments to go up as a result.