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Fully prepared for over 100 hours’ work over Easter weekend

Work will start at 20.00 on 1 April 2021. From then on, we will be working non-stop on the foundations for the two roof sections for the new passenger tunnel at Amsterdam Zuid station: the Brittenpassage. The work will last until 05.00 on Tuesday, 6 April. We are currently moving as much equipment as possible onto the work site. What is already there, including the huge steel reinforcement cages, is being placed onto trailers ready to be hoisted into position when the time comes. The overall aim is to enable work to be done as efficiently as possible during the upcoming four-day working weekend.

Truck loaded with sections of the crane
Marcel Steinbach

Overrunning not an option

‘Overrunning is not an option. In truth, we have slightly more than 100 hours to build the foundations’, explains Danny van der Meer, construction site manager at ZuidPlus, the consortium that is doing the job. ‘By 05.00 on Tuesday, 6 April, the foundations need to be ready for the roof sections that we’ll be inserting into their final position in August. By that time, railway track 4 and metro track 1 also need to be back into position, in order to enable the metros and trains to run as if nothing had been happening here in the previous four days. That also gives this job a certain added tension.’ All of the major preparatory work for the insertion of the roof sections in August needs to be completed this weekend. ‘We cannot take a railway or metro track out of service at the drop of a hat. Occasions like these are scheduled around 18 months in advance, in consultation with ProRail and Amsterdam regional transport (Vervoerregio Amsterdam). Public transport operators NS and GVB are also involved. That means finishing the job off a week or so later is just not possible.’

On the construction site
Marcel Steinbach

Coronavirus

The suspense that the work involves is mainly down to the pressure of time. ‘And coronavirus’, adds Van der Meer. ‘The original plan was to start at 01.00 in the morning on 2 April, but since we have to use fewer workers because of coronavirus, we added an extra five hours to that. And we really need that extra time.’ Back-ups have been arranged for every specialist, in case anyone becomes ill. Stringent rules also apply on the construction site in order to ensure the team stay healthy. ‘There is strict supervision to make sure that there’s proper social distancing. A large marquee has also been put up where you can eat a sandwich while observing social distancing and it’s being cleaned continually.’

Part of a caterpillar crane
Marcel Steinbach

Proper preparation

The work consists of hoisting huge reinforcement cages, filling them with concrete, moving track 4, widening the platform where tracks 3 and 4 are and then putting the tracks back. Van der Meer has fewer worries about all of that. ‘That’s thanks to the proper preparation. Because you have only limited time, the last thing you need is surprises. That’s why any work that could be done in advance has already been completed.’ For example, the four reinforcement cages for the foundations are already prepared to be hoisted into position at Easter. ‘We even subjected them to ‘hoisting tests’, to make sure that the huge cages stay upright in the air and that the crane can support the weight – the largest reinforcement cage weighs 23 tonnes. That all went very smoothly.’

Marcel Steinbach

Final test

A test was also done using trucks. Van der Meer: ‘We checked whether the 20-metres long trucks could negotiate the sharp bend leading up to the construction site and didn’t lose their 20-tonne dummy load on the slope.’ Fortunately, it soon became clear that the trucks did not require additional assistance. ‘We then stopped testing and the same trucks began transporting their real load – two caterpillar cranes around 40 metres in height – to the site in sections. We are currently assembling these two cranes and will use them to hoist the four reinforcement cages into position. That means that we’re well on schedule to start the work at 20.00 on Thursday, 1 April.’

Assembling a crane
Marcel Steinbach

Follow it live

You can follow the work live via the webcam. Here is a broad outline of the work you can expect over Easter: on the evening and night of Thursday, we will first remove railway track 4 and metro track 1. On Friday, we will dig open the foundation piles inserted previously. To do that, we will need to remove around 1000 cubic metres of sand. On Saturday, we will place the reinforcement cages already in position over the piles. Once these are in place, we will pour concrete into the cages on Saturday. Sunday is needed for the concrete to harden. During the weekend, we will simultaneously be widening railway platform 3/4 to give passengers more space to move around here after Easter. Finally, Monday will be used to build back the tracks and ensure everything is prepared for Tuesday, when the first trains and metros will start running again. In this process, track 4 will be slightly repositioned: because we are widening part of the platform, this will create a slight bend in the track. We will then return metro track 1 to its old position. According to the plan, both GVB and NS will be able to resume their services from 05.00 on Tuesday, 6 April and can then transport passengers safely to their destinations.

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