The work ran smoothly without any major problems. There was a reduced metro service because of work on the tracks. In addition, because of the replacement of the temporary railway platform, trains were diverted via the platform alongside tracks 1 and 2. ‘Replacing the switch was complicated from a logistics perspective’, says Emiel Vergouw from Zuidasdok. ‘It’s located roughly above Beethovenstraat. We had to gain access via the entrance to Parnassusweg, which we’re also still using for the construction of the second passenger tunnel – the Brittenpassage. That meant that the machines and trailers with switch components had to travel quite a distance between the metro tracks, on a dead-end road and while the metros were still running. That calls for very careful organisation.’
Expanding the work site
This was the fourth new switch of the total of five being installed. Thanks to them, we will be able to scrap a metro track to the west of Zuid metro station next summer. This will be necessary in order to expand the work site between the tracks for the renovation of Amsterdam Zuid station. The track for the old Amstelveen line has already been removed, because this service no longer arrives at Zuid station (since March 2019). This means that, of the four metro tracks that were at the station there will be only two left heading west from Zuid station in six months’ time. In the space freed by their removal, we can build the components of the Brittenpassage and increase the height and width of the existing Minervapassage.
North/South metro line
So, what was the purpose of the switch that we installed in the weekend of 4 and 5 December 2021? ‘The track that we’re removing is currently still being used by the driver of line 52 (the North/South line) to return the metro trains in a westerly direction to the rail yard at Amstelveenseweg’, explains Vergouw. ‘From around the summer of 2022, that will no longer be possible. From then on, these metro trains will head eastwards at night: to the depot in Diemen. Line 52 metros can only get there if they can switch to the track that lines 50 and 51 run on. Of course, the opposite also needs to be possible: from Diemen to Amsterdam Zuid, hence the need for several switches. The switch we installed in the weekend of 4 and 5 December will enable line 52 to travel in the direction of Diemen. In the weekend of 18 and 19 December, we will install the switch that makes the journey possible in the opposite direction: from Diemen to Zuid.’
Change for metro drivers
The removal of the metro track in the direction of the Amstelveenseweg rail yard will also mean a change for the drivers on the North/South metro line. Vergouw: ‘The drivers whose final journey is in the direction of Zuid will no longer end their service at Amstelveenseweg, but in Diemen instead. They will also start in Diemen in the mornings. If you start or end your day in Noord, nothing will change. That rail yard will remain in operation.’
Opportunities to divert
We previously installed three switches. The first two were in the weekend of 13 and 14 November, just east of Amsterdam RAI station. The third was installed in the weekend of 27 and 28 November. What did we need them for? ‘Basically, two metro tracks are intended for trains heading from east to west and the other two for trains travelling from west to east. The three previous switches prevent metros having to travel in the opposite direction than normal while also ensuring that there are still opportunities to divert if a metro train becomes stranded’, says Vergouw.
New platform floor
The installation of a switch was not the only thing happening in the weekend 4 and 5 December. We also replaced the floor of the removable platform next to railway tracks 3 and 4. This part of the platform needs to be removed in order to enable work on the future Brittenpassage. ‘The wooden platform sections are supposed to last for three to four years’, says Vergouw. ‘However, we noticed this summer that they are deteriorating much faster.’ This is why we carried out emergency repairs in November 2021. ‘The faster wear and tear may be because of the repeated lifting in and out of the platforms. That process may have allowed water to penetrate between the sections. For the replacements, we asked the suppliers for the best materials available. But all of them said that we already have the best materials. This means that the new sections are made from the same material as the old ones. Now that we’re aware that they wear more easily, we also know that they will need replacing again in in about two years. That will be the last time, because after that we can build the definitive railway platforms.’
The result after last weekend: four switches have been installed and there is one more to go. Equally, one removable railway platform has been replaced and there is another one to follow. That work will be done in the weekend of 18 and 19 December. Vergouw laughs: ‘For us and the team, that means a little more perseverance, but we’ll then be able to enjoy a well-deserved Christmas holiday feeling satisfied and reassured.’