Marianne van Lochem, integrated design coordinator for the new Amsterdam Zuid station, is full of enthusiasm when she talks about it: so, how do you design a station that not only looks great but is also easy to maintain? ‘It’s just not safe having maintenance workers walking across the platform with a 6-metre ladder. The last thing you want is someone hitting the overhead wires. This is why we integrated ladders into the design of the platform roofs. They’re a bit like foldaway stairs that you can pull down.’ Another example: the glass walls around the stairs and escalators to the platforms. The inside also needs wiping down occasionally. But how do you do that above a gap that is metres in depth? The answer, says Van Lochem, came from a system designed for the North/South metro line. ‘It’s a kind of abseiling chair that suspends the glass cleaner next to the wall like a mountain climber. Several specialists from the North/South line are now working for the Zuidasdok programme. Their experience is proving very useful.’
The new station will require a lot of maintenance. In addition to the (very tall) platform roofs and the glass walls around the platform stairs and escalators, this also applies to the two passageways, the bicycle park, the platform floors and much more. Technical systems will also need maintenance. ‘For that, you have to integrate crawlspace into the design, to allow technicians access without inconveniencing passengers.’ It also needs to be possible to conduct structural inspections. ‘That includes the foundations on which the roofs of the station passageways rest. Large parts of the foundations can no longer be seen in the passageways, but they need to be accessible. Trains and metros run across the roof of these passageways and release a lot of energy in the process. That’s why you need to be able to make occasional checks on the condition of the foundations. It’s all been deliberately designed to enable access via a special entrance from the bicycle park.’
All of this is not made any easier by the fact that Amsterdam Zuid station is a public transport hub with multiple operators. The station alone is partly for metros and partly for trains. Amsterdam runs the metro network, ProRail operates the railway network. NS Stations is also involved as the operator of the retail outlets in the station. Add to that the fact that there will be platforms for trams on the southern side and for buses on the northern side, all with the same architectural look and feel as the railway and metro station and it is easy to understand the implications for maintenance. ‘We aim to be as efficient as possible with our annual maintenance budget in the future. That requires all of these players to contribute and make joint choices at this early stage in the design process’, says Van Lochem. ‘In terms of appearance and passenger convenience, you don’t want metro stairways or lifts that look different from those for the train. But the same also applies for maintenance. The different players will each maintain their own properties. But we’re doing that in a smart way. It’s more practical and cheaper if a single maintenance worker does all the lifts in one go.’
Growing old in style
Lidwien van Kessel, Stations project coordinator at ProRail, has been involved in numerous station refurbishments and has an unparalleled understanding of the importance of considering maintenance in the design process. ‘A station that’s attractive now also needs to look great in 25 years’ time. Or put another way: it needs to be able to grow old in style. That’s only possible if you design it robustly and have a carefully-considered maintenance plan. It helps to work with materials that are easy to replace. This year, we’re testing different floor tiles in the station. You can always use attractive, exclusive floor tiles, but if some of them have to be replaced in five years’ time, you need to be sure you can still get hold of them. So, it’s not only about building something attractive, but also keeping it that way. For example, this applies to all the glass that there will be at Amsterdam Zuid. We want a station that is clean and complete, with good maintenance and minimum inconvenience to passengers.’
Text: Hilde Postma
This is the fourth in a series about the work behind-the-scenes on the renovation of Amsterdam Zuid station. Amsterdam Zuid station will become the Netherlands’ fifth largest station, after Amsterdam Central, Utrecht Central, Rotterdam Central and Schiphol Airport. How do you turn a mainly local station into a true public transportation hub? The first article was about the design of pedestrian routes. The second was on the subject of the platform access design. The third was about the tiling. The fourth was about the almost energy-neutral station.