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Working in the 'crawlspace' of the Brittenpassage

It remains an extraordinary sight. Standing on the work site next to Arnold Schönberglaan, on the south side of Amsterdam Zuid station, we are looking into a space that has a depth and width of almost 70 m: a tunnel that goes straight through the embankment on which the A10 and the metro and railway tracks are located. There are construction workers coming and going, and slightly further along, we step aside to make way for a passing concrete truck.

Under the floor

The Nieuw-Zuid Construction Consortium (Mobilis, Boskalis, Van Gelder) has already made good progress in building the foundations for the new Brittenpassage. They are currently working in the ‘crawlspace’: an area underneath the floor that passengers will walk across to access trains, metros and shops in 2027. Around 1.5 m of depth is needed underneath what will ultimately be the walking area. The area under the shops on both sides of the tunnel needs to be slightly deeper, in order to accommodate the electrics and drainage system.

‘Fish hooks’

Foreman Mark Groot points to some foundation piles with large nails on them, at a depth of around 2 m in the centre of the passageway. ‘We’ll be pouring concrete over those piles for the footings. Those nails, which we call dowel bars, grip the concrete like fish hooks, making an especially strong bond. That’s needed, because these footings will ultimately support the pillars for the roof of the passageway. Those pillars will need to be able to support quite a weight, because trains and metros will be running across the roof.’ Currently, the roof is still supported by temporary piles across which we previously moved roof sections into position.

Side walls

Concrete is not only needed for the floor and pillars, but also to build the side walls of the Brittenpassage. ‘At the moment, they consist of a combination of steel tubes and planks’, says Groot. ‘In front of that, we’re installing a thick section of concrete onto which we’ll pour an in-fill wall to create an even surface. Onto that, we’ll pour the heavier, reinforced wall: the side walls of the Brittenpassage.’

Natural product

Groot and his team are in charge of ensuring that the concrete work meets the required high standards. When the formwork comes off, he wants to see smooth concrete, with no air bubbles and with the right pattern. ‘Concrete is a natural product’, explains Groot. ‘That means that the time between mixing and pouring the concrete has an effect on the quality. That’s why we do the pouring between nine in the morning and three in the afternoon every day in order to prevent the concrete trucks being delayed by the traffic jams and ensure that the deliveries remain constant.’ They are even making a test section of the roof, so that everyone can really see and feel what it should be like. ‘The real thing can sometimes turn out different from what you thought.’

New platforms

Halfway through the tunnel, Groot points upwards: ‘Can you see that wooden structure between the two roof sections? They’re the temporary railway platforms that have been there since 2019. At the end of 2024 and in early 2025, we’ll start building the definitive platforms, that will later have roofs on top of them.’ For Groot, that feels a long way off. ‘By then, the foundations, the floors, the walls and the support pillars for the roof and new platforms will need to be ready. That’s what we’re working towards.’ Will the passageway then be ready for finishing, with stone floors, glass shop frontages and so on? ‘That will be the case for the southern section of the roof, yes. But can you see that there?’ Groot points at a steel pile wall covering the full width of the tunnel. ‘That’s a cofferdam with the most northerly metro track on top of it. We’ll be removing that this summer, and then putting the track back in place slightly further along. We’ll then begin construction of the final section of the passageway.’

By 2027 at the latest, around 200 m away from the existing Minervapassage, an extra, 130 m long passenger tunnel will open : the Brittenpassage. When you have passed through the gates with your public transport chip card or bank pass, you will enter the modern station passageway with an internal bicycle park across two floors (1,500 bikes) and various retail outlets for shopping. Of course, you will be able to access the railway and metro platforms by stairs, escalator or lift and there will be a desk for the purchase of your public transport tickets.

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