First published in AMS business magazine. Author: Douglas Heingartner
Alderperson Pieter Litjens, who is responsible for traffic and transport in the Amsterdam area, understands better than anyone the various challenges the region faces. ‘Amsterdam is very popular,’ he says. ‘The city is booming. One of the effects of this is increasingly busy traffic and more and more people on the streets.’
This growth spurt calls for a comprehensive strategy, with a range of disparate elements that are now gradually coming together in the overall transport vision for the region. ‘To ensure the city’s accessibility, we have to invest and make choices,’ Litjens says. ‘In the city centre, we’re creating more space for pedestrians, cyclists and public transport.’
Amsterdam is also collaborating with corporate partners to make the city as accessible as possible. ‘In terms of traffic coming into the city, we’re working with companies like Google and TomTom to offer smart mobility solutions,’ Litjens adds.
All of these elements are coming together in a series of projects that are making the Amsterdam region easier to navigate. Here’s an update on five of Amsterdam’s most critical infrastructural projects.
The Noord/Zuid Line
The construction of Amsterdam’s Noord/Zuid (North-South) metro line is in full swing, and after a long wait – the project started in 2003 – the new metro is expected to begin running in 2017. Connecting Amsterdam Noord to Amsterdam Zuid, the journey along the 9.7km line will take a total of 16 minutes, compared to the current average driving time of 31 minutes.
The new line, which used enough steel to build 16 Eiffel Towers, will provide a much-needed alternative to the city’s busy trams and buses. When finally up and running, the Noord/Zuid Line – which will depart every five minutes (and every four minutes during rush hour) – is expected to transport 120,000 travellers through the centre of Amsterdam every day.
The first test train passed through the North tunnel in April 2015, but there is still important work to be done. Remaining to-dos mainly involve the laying of rails and the installation of escalators and other systems. As it is so new, the Noord/Zuid Line will offer travellers the latest innovations, in terms of design and technology, to guarantee a comfortable experience.
The 3D sensors on your travel card, for instance, will know exactly how long to keep the gates open, and the escalators and moving walkways will be heated to prevent slippery ice from forming during cold weather. Also of note is that the subway cars being used on the new line will have the highest ceilings and doors in the world – probably due to the fact that the Dutch are the tallest people in the world.
Amsterdam Central Station
Amsterdam Central Station, the Netherlands’ busiest monument, is undergoing a metamorphosis. The station already welcomes about a quarter of a million passengers per day, and this number is likely to increase to 330,000 in the next few years. With the construction of the new Noord/Zuid metro line, it was decided that Central Station itself needed a major upgrade to stay in line with the times too.
And the results are starting to appear. The new bus station on the water side is already in use, and underneath it, the equally new underpass for motor vehicles alleviates congestion by keeping traffic underground. A separate new tunnel for cyclists and pedestrians opened in late 2015, providing a fast and safe route between the city centre and the IJ River and its ferries to Amsterdam Noord.
The station’s new, second main entrance, the IJ Hall, is located on the northern side of the building. This entrance provides access to the metro as well as the bus station and the arcades, which feature supermarkets, restaurants and a wide variety of shops and services. What’s more, the widening of all three tunnels running through the station allows passengers and visitors to move around more comfortably. Perhaps the most visible change is the restoration of the station’s central hall to the original grandeur of architect P.J.H. Cuypers’ 1880 vision, richly decorated with ornaments and stone.
But just as important is the area outside the station. New storage shelters for bikes are being added, offering up to 17,500 spaces. And the taxis have all been moved to the north side, which means the station square is now the domain of pedestrians, cyclists and trams. And last, but certainly by no means least, as part of Amsterdam’s plans to revamp the entrance into the city, a grand obstacle-free ‘red carpet’ pathway is being created between Central Station and the Dam Square.
The transformation of the A9
The A9 motorway, which runs between Diemen (in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area) and Alkmaar, is being widened between Holendrecht and Diemen and redirected around the village of Badhoevedorp. These changes are part of a larger project aimed at improving the accessibility of the northern Randstad by expanding the road network between Haarlem, Schiphol, Amsterdam and Almere. When it is finished in 2020, the road to Amsterdam Zuid-Oost will have five lanes in both directions, in contrast to just two lanes today.
The current asphalt artery between the Bijlmer and Gaasperdam will be transformed into a vast green terrain that will include a leafy city park (due to open in 2021), as a large part of the new A9 will run underground in a new 3-km tunnel known as the Gaasperdammertunnel. Whilst vehicle traffic will traverse the tunnel, bicycle and pedestrian traffic will remain above ground.
The Gaasperdammertunnel, the longest land tunnel in the Netherlands, will lead to a reduction in traffic congestion and air and noise pollution, while also increasing the local quality of life in the densely populated area. In addition to the aforementioned benefits to the environment and local community, the project also proves advantageous to local youth as it provides internships and apprenticeships in areas such as engineering and security.
The project began in February 2014, with preparations including the relocation of cables and pipes, the removal and replanting of trees, and the construction of temporary roads and bridges. Construction of the Gaasperdammertunnel itself started in September 2015, and the main road, the Gaasperdammerweg, will remain open during the renovation.
Expanding the A6 from Amsterdam to Almere
By 2030, the number of homes in Almere is expected to increase by 60,000 (from the current 82,000). So it comes as no surprise that the traffic between Amsterdam and this part of the Netherlands also continues to grow. Which is why, as part of the larger Schiphol-Amsterdam-Almere (SAA) road expansion project, the A6 motorway between Amsterdam and Almere is being enlarged.
The road will widen from two to three lanes in some sections, and up to five lanes in others. All in all, this 23-km stretch of new road will use approximately one million tonnes of asphalt, and 9 million cubic meters of sand; that’s equivalent to about 108 million wheelbarrows (or seven for each person in the Netherlands).
The new highway will be as energy-neutral as possible, generating its own energy to power the lights and traffic management system, with a solar field of between 4,000 and 10,000 solar panels expected to open in 2020 near the main Almere junction. Furthermore, noise barriers, silent asphalt and the use of recyclable and locally produced materials will help reduce the new motorway’s environmental impact.
Cyclists and pedestrians will be catered for with new connections being built underneath the highway, and special ecological corridors will allow nature and wildlife to remain undisturbed. The new A6 from Amsterdam to Almere is expected to be completed in 2020, just in time for Almere to host the 2022 edition of the Floriade, the massive garden fair held in the Netherlands once every decade.
Zuidas makes room for new residents
Zuidas – located in Amsterdam Zuid, not far from Amstelveen and Schiphol Airport – is known as the international business centre of the Netherlands. About 30,000 people work here at more than 700 companies and organisations, and 2014 saw in excess of 200,000 m2 of floor space under construction.
But the rapid growth of homes in the Zuidas area means that it is transforming from a business centre into a mixed-use urban district; over the next five years, between 2,500 and 3,000 new homes will be built here.That’s why several projects are currently being carried out in Zuidas that focus on how to improve links between the area itself and the rest of the city, and how to make it a better place to live for its current residents. Examples include smart redesigns of existing public spaces, or the use of trees to alleviate the summer heat and help prevent flooding. The tram service between Amstelveen and Amsterdam is also getting a makeover and will soon be more reliable, faster and more comfortable.
Zuidas will also play a role in the Noord/Zuid metro line, due to open in 2017, with two of the line’s stations being located there: Europaplein and Amsterdam Zuid. The Europaplein station, near the RAI Amsterdam conference centre, is expected to see about 20,000 passengers every day, and the Amsterdam Zuid station is set to welcome approximately 75,000 passengers per day.