At the start of June 2021, we sent the Environmental Service more than 300 documents, which together make up the draft application for an environmental permit. This permit is needed in order to refurbish Amsterdam Zuid station and transform it into a public transport hub for (international) trains, metros, trams and buses. Environmental permits come in all shapes and sizes, but an application of this scope and complexity is anything but a daily occurrence. ‘We didn’t just throw the paperwork together, you know’, says Tijmen Steenge, who was involved in compiling the permit application on behalf of Zuidasdok. ‘We have been consulting intensively with the Environmental Service in recent months. We gave them a briefing about the design and the Environmental Service outlined the legal requirements that the design must meet. By doing that, we’re saving ourselves time.’ In order to decide whether the application is complete, a draft permit application is now under consideration at the Environmental Service. They may request further documentation. ‘We consult each other every fortnight’, says Steenge. ‘Obviously, you never know for sure, but I think this thorough preparation will ensure our application is pretty comprehensive.’ He expects to be able to submit the definitive application for the environmental permit in mid-July.
Dozens of experts
Dozens of experts have been involved in the process in recent months. ‘On our side, they included structural engineers, system and railway designers, architects and a variety of specialists in such areas as safety, phasing and construction physics. The Environmental Service also brought in experts of their own. The Environmental Service will assess the application in terms of the legal requirements, including the zoning plan, structural safety and aesthetic standards. For example, experts asked about the safety of the roofs in the two new passageways under the platforms, part of which will consist of glass you can walk on. What are its load-bearing capacities? Another part will be made from natural stone. Have we taken sufficient account of the risk of a block of natural stone falling down? Of course, we took account of these kinds of aspects in our design. But it’s still good to have discussed these issues with the Environmental Service at an early stage in the process. The fact that we were informed in these preliminary consultations about the requirements set for the permit application has enabled us to make further improvements to certain aspects of the design before submitting our application.’
Steenge is expecting the environmental permit to be granted this year. However, there will still be a lot of contact with the Environmental Service after that. ‘Firstly, because we already know that we need to do further work on some aspects, especially relating to sustainability. For example, since 1 January 2021, environmental permit applications have had to meet the so-called BENG requirements for almost energy-neutral buildings. We already have a good idea of these in broad outline, but need to do further work on them. Secondly, the Environmental Service will act as the supervisory authority while the station is being built and taken into use in phases. In each phase, a section of the new building will be taken into use while other work is still ongoing. Throughout that process, the station will need to continue to comply with all of the safety requirements. Finally, certain future developments, including the tunnels, the two additional train tracks and the DokDakpark have not yet been included in this draft permit application. For them, we will begin a new process with the Environmental Service.’