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Feature

The Frafjord bus.

Feature

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Frafjord, the fjord and valley bottom lying in the mountain's shadow. Viewed from the mountain road. Click for a larger picture.

About 35 kilometres (21¾ miles) as the crow flies, south-east of Stavanger lies the little farming community of Frafjord, taking its name from the fjord arm at the end of which it lies.

Up until 1965 the only way into Frafjord (other than on foot), was the sea route up the fjord. This was Frafjord's lifeline. The ferries sailed along Høgsfjord, the further they came inland, the higher and steeper the mountains on either side of the fjord became. At Dirdal the fjord became dry land and the valley continued for several kilometres to Gilja. But to the left, another fjord arm branched off. This was Frafjord. Here, the mountains on either side of the fjord came even closer, towering vertical walls plunging 2000 feet down to the water's edge, and then continuing down another 2000 feet, unseen into the murky watery depths. Eventually, after 6 km (3¾ miles) the fjord shallowed out to become the flat valley bottom, home to the farmsteads that make up the Frafjord community.

It was by this route Frafjord's first bus came in 1938. Nils Haaland, a sheep farmer,
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This 36 seater 1947 model International was operated by Nils Haaland between 1956 and 1965. It now lies 2000 feet down at the bottom of the fjord.
Picture by kind permission of Kjell Haaland. Click for a larger picture.
bought a 1936 model Chevrolet truck, onto the front half of which he built a cabin with four benches to accomodate passengers. The back half was left open, to transport milk churns and other goods. Thus it became a combi-bus, a familiar sight in rural Norway right up to recent times. The bus plied the narrow 7 km. long road from the landing stage at the fjord's edge, following the Frafjord river up the valley to the last farmstead at Eikeskog. During the next 27 years Nils Haaland operated a number of buses trucks and taxis up and down the valley. Among these was a 1947 model 36 seater International bus, which he acquired in 1956 and remained in service until 1965. Unfortunately this bus found its last resting place 2000 feet down at the bottom of the fjord.


1959 marked the start of a project which would end Frafjord's isolation from the outside world. A road carved out of the mountainside, climbing up over Giljastølen, connecting Frafjord with the farming community of Gilja in neighbouring Dirdal and the road to Stavanger.with the farming community of Gilja in neighbouring Dirdal and the road to Stavanger. The new road was finally ready in 1965. With the opening of the road came the local transport company Høle & Forsand Billag, and bought up Nils Haaland's transport operation in Frafjord, immediately introducing a bus service linking Frafjord and Stavanger.
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Nils Haaland acquired this 1936 Chevrolet after the war. It is seen here on the quayside in Frafjord. The bodywork was built in Norway by the Repstad Brothers. An extension to the passenger compartment could be mounted onto the rear of the vehicle to form the bus pictured below. Click for a larger picture.
This was not the end for Nils Haaland, he was employed by Høle & Forsand and drove the bus service into Frafjord, and continued to do so until his retirement in 1984. Nils Haaland's son, Kjell, had already started driving buses for Høle & Forsand, and he took over the job of driving the bus into Frafjord from his father, something he does to this day. The buses used on this service were Høle & Forsand's favourite purchase in the 1960's and 70's, Volvos with Norwegian produced Repstad bodies. These were clad in Høle & Forsand's very attractive green and yellow livery.

The next change came in 1990 when Høle & Forsand and the Sandnes company Haga Buss, merged their local bus operations to form a new company called Sandnes Buss. Høle & Forsand's goods transport division and Haga Buss's touring coach operation, remained independent and continued operating under their old names. This dual ownership was very shortlived. Within a few months, Høle & Forsand had bought Haga Buss's share in Sandnes Buss and thus became the sole owner. Sandnes Buss acquired a new livery of white with a green and pink floral pattern. For its longer routes, Sandnes Buss purchased Scania 113's with Finnish built Carrus Express dual purpose coach bodies. This type of vehicle was used on route 280 to Frafjord in the early 1990's.
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This happy crowd of trippers is pictured before the war with the same Chevrolet parked behind, with the full bus body mounted. This picture was taken before Nils Haaland bought the bus. The then owner can be seen sitting behind the ladies to the left. Click for a larger picture.
Sandnes Buss was not to last long. In 1994 it was sold to Stavanger og Omegn Trafikkselskap (SOT), thus ending Høle & Forsand's long connection with buses. Sandnes Buss retained its identity for a short time afterwards but has now been totally absorbed by SOT.

The mountain road out of Frafjord had become that communities lifeline, but it was not without its hazards. The road was steep and narrow, and there was the constant threat of rock falls. In winter the problems were exacerbated by snow and ice and the occasional avalanche. After one rockfall the road was closed for 3 weeks, forcing the re-introduction of the ferry link. Plans for a tunnel linking Frafjord and Gilja had long existed. In fact a tunnel had been considered before the road was built, the road option gaining favour for reasons of cost.

In 1997 the authorities finally agreed to finance the tunnel project and realisation of the long ready plans was started. Work on the 3.8 km (2.36 miles) tunnel progressed quickly. The new tunnel was
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A Høle & Forsand late 1950's model Volvo with Repstad body. Buses of this type would have been the first to make the journey into Frafjord. Note the right hand steering together with the right hand entrance, a common feature of Norwegian buses of that period.
Picture by kind permission of Kjell Haaland. Click for a larger picture.
opened on 10th. June 1999, and at the same time, the road from Giljastølen down to Frafjord was blocked off, thus closing a chapter in Frafjord's history. The 12 km. (7½ mile) trekk over the mountain was reduced to a 3.8 km dash through the tunnel.

Route 280 in its entirity still covers the whole way from Frafjord to Stavanger, but for operational reasons it has been split into sections, with the most frequent service between Sandnes and Ålgård. There is just one bus out and one bus into Frafjord per day. This bus goes as far as Sandnes and is primarily a school service, although anyone can use it.

In June 1999 route 280 acquired a new owner when the French conglomerate CGEA bought Stavanger og Omegn Trafikkselskap (SOT) through its Swedish subsidiary Linjebuss. Kjell Haaland continues to drive the 280 into Frafjord, but also sits on SOT's board of directors as the employees' representative. The Haaland family's connection with the Frafjord bus seems set to continue, as Nils Haaland's grandson, Ommund Haaland, now drives the bus when his father is otherwise engaged.

Many thanks to Kjell and Ommund Haaland for their invaluable assistance in the preparation of this article.

Below are some additional pictures which you may like to view. Just click on a picture in order to see a larger version.




Høle & Forsand Volvo/Repstad from about 1980. The bus is standing at Eikeskog.
Picture by kind permission of Kjell Haaland.
Click for a larger picture
Click for a larger picture The mountain road was narrow, and there was always the risk of rockfalls, something the pockmarked road surface bears witness to.


The tunnel entrance at Gilja. The tunnel was opened on 10th. June 1999. The old road can just be seen on the right. It is open as far as Giljastølen, but the descent into Frafjord has been blocked off. Click for a larger picture


Click for a larger picture Early in the 1990's Kjell Haaland and other Sandnes Buss employees travelled to Finland to collect 2 new Scanias from the coachbuilders. They are pictured here on the quayside at Stockholm, Sweden, after coming off the ferry from Finland, on their way to Sandnes. Both are clad in the unusual, and now defunct (fortunately), Sandnes Buss livery. The bodies are Carrus Express, and would have been used on the Frafjord route.
Picture by kind permission of Kjell Haaland.


A view of the upper part of the mountain road. A morning mist fills the valley over the fjord. Click for a largerpicture


Click for a larger picture One of the hairpin bends hewn out of the mountainside.


RH13818, no. 358 in the SOT fleet, a Scania 113 with Carrus Universal body. The bus has manual transmission with 10 forward gears (2 x 5). In addition to the service brakes it is equipped with an exhaust brake and a Telma electric retarder. It is seen here at Kjell Haaland's farm at Eikeskog, where it will stay until the journey to Sandnes early next morning. Click for a larger picture


Click for a larger picture The bus shelter at Molaug, which is roughly halfway up the valley. You can just get a glimpse of the Frafjord river in the background. Sea trout and the occasional salmon come up the river. Only night fishing is permitted here.


The bus emerging from the tunnel at Gilja on its early morning journey from Frafjord to Sandnes. Click for a larger picture


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This page was last updated on: 23 November 2003