Hiiu Teed OÜ constructs Europe’s longest ice road
Hiiu Teed OÜ, a subsidiary of the construction company Nordecon AS, has opened the Heltermaa–Rohuküla ice road.
Hiiu Teed OÜ, a subsidiary of the construction company Nordecon AS, has opened the Heltermaa–Rohuküla ice road. At 25.6 km, it is the longest such road for public use in Europe today. And depending on the weather conditions, the road could grow even longer – up to 29 km.
“Constructing and looking after an ice road requires a lot of very particular attention!” said Jaano Vink, chairman of the board of Nordecon AS. “The conditions on the road can change in the blink of an eye, so the team who built it and who are responsible for taking care of it need to react immediately and decide whether they’re placing motorists in danger. They have to be constantly up-to-date with the weather conditions and forecasts. They also need to have an intimate knowledge of the waterway the ice road is sitting on top of – in this case the sea. These days this is all simpler than it used to be, of course, since there’s much more weather information available and it’s generally much more accurate.”
Raigo Sahtel, director of Hiiu Teed OÜ, says that Estonia has years of experience in constructing ice roads. “In days gone by, your experience and knowledge of the environment played a bigger part in the decisions you made. The length of the road varies depending on the ice conditions. Over the years the Heltermaa-Rohuküla road’s been anywhere between 25 and 29 km long. The road we’re using this year is 25.6 km long, but it’s likely we’ll need to reroute it slightly in the next few days, since the freezing temperatures at night are doing their bit, and the road will probably become a bit longer again.”
Sahtel explained that until 2002 the Heltermaa–Rohuküla and Sõru–Triigi ice roads (between the island of Hiiumaa and the mainland and the islands of Hiiumaa and Saaremaa respectively) were constructed by the Hiiu County Road Administration. Since 1 December 2002, when OÜ Hiiu Teed was founded as a separate firm, the company has taken on the responsibility of constructing and maintaining the ice roads, having won the Estonian Road Administration tender to do so.
“People on Hiiumaa have more than 50 years’ experience building and looking after ice roads,” said Sahtel. “That knowledge has been passed down from generation to generation. They’ve been a vital link for the islanders, since in the past, when the ferries weren’t as reliable as they are today, the ice roads were the primary way of getting goods and building materials to the island. Of course, you can only build a proper ice road if you have proper winter conditions, and this year they’ve been more than good enough!”
Sahtel added that what makes the Heltermaa-Rohuküla ice road special is not only its sheer length, but also the fact that its length and load-bearing capacity are dictated by nature. “Our job is to construct an ice road that meets the ice road requirements, if the conditions allow it. The requirements have changed over the years, since vehicle technology has come along in leaps and bounds. But the basics never change: you can only use the road when it’s light outside; you must adhere to the weight restrictions; and you mustn’t wear a seatbelt while you’re driving on it. But the rules generally are being amended and added to all the time to make using the ice road safer for people, as well as to make constructing it and taking care of it safer and simpler.”
The current safety regulations governing the use of the ice road are set out in ‘Requirements for the construction, condition and maintenance of ice roads’, regulation no. 106 of the Minister of Economic Affairs and Communications of 21 April 2004; RTL 2004, 47, 816.
Founded in 1989, Nordecon AS (www.nordecon.com) is one of the leading construction companies in Estonia. It has been listed on the NASDAQ OMX Tallinn Stock Exchange since May 2006. The group comprises more than 10 subsidiaries in addition to the parent company. Its unaudited consolidated turnover in the 2010 financial year was almost 100 million euros.
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