More setbacks for new Amsterdam metro line
The builders of Amsterdam's new North-South metro line must be thinking they're in a nightmare they can't wake up from.
The news that tramlines outside the city's Central Station had subsided yesterday due to metro building work was just the latest setback in a series of delays, subsidences, leaks and budgets spiralling out of control that have dogged the project since it began.
The new metro link will be called Line 52. It will run through the city's central districts and connect the suburbs of north Amsterdam with the Amsterdam Zuid transport interchange. It will be 9.8 kilometres long, six of which will be underground. When the plans were agreed in 1996, the budget for the eight-year project was set at 850 million euros. By the time work began in 2003, it had risen to 1.46 billion. Today, it stands at 2.2 billion euros. With the problems currently bedevilling the builders, there's little reason to believe that that figure is final.
So what's gone wrong? The chief problem is leaks in the walls of the underground tunnels. The water the leaks let in fills up the building sites, but worse still, washes earth away from the foundations of buildings above. The foundations loosen and the buildings subside. This has happened several times.
In August 2004, seven houses on the Vijzelgracht sank 2.5 centimetres. In June 2008, four historic 17th century buildings on a side street of the Vijzelgracht dropped 15 centimetres. This was followed in August 2008 by subsidences along the Nieuwe Leeuwardeweg in the north of the city. Building work was stopped for months while the problems were put right. Or so the engineers thought.
Work resumed under the Vijzelgracht on 9 September. On the evening of 10 September, in the space of a couple of hours, six houses sank more than 20 centimetres. The cause? A leak in the tunnel walls. The furious occupants were evacuated by police without even time to pack personal belongings. Work was stopped again for at least four weeks while builders investigated the cause of the leak and foreign experts were called in to help them.
Then the tramlines subsided on Thursday and stopped five lines in the area dead in their tracks, so to speak. That wasn't the day's only bad news. Tjeerd Herrema, the city councillor responsible for transport, announced that costs had risen once again and that work was now scheduled to be finished, at the earliest, in 2015. That's four years later than the original completion date.
[Construction work on Amsterdam's North-South metro line project - disaster waiting to happen? ]
No halt to the project
After the second subsidence on the Vijzelgracht, another councillor made it clear that stopping the project was "not an option," but then went on to admit that the council had indeed considered it. With the latest mishap outside Central Station, it may well be an option that's going to receive fresh consideration.
By Nick Garlick
3 October 2008