ON MARCH 17 Netherlands Transport Minister Tineke Netelenbos officially launched work on the country’s first bored rail tunnel. The double track Botleks tunnel under the Oude Maas will carry freight trains between the docks and the Betuwe line. The twin 1835m bores will replace the Botleks bridge on Rotterdam’s harbour line, which must handle growing freight traffic whilst remaining open for shipping.

The 9650mm diameter tunnels will be dug by a German TBM, but grouting and ground stabilisation will be needed in the soft river bed. Previous NS tunnels have all been built using immersed tube techniques. Work is to start shortly on the other two tunnels for the Betuwe line, the so-called Sophia tunnel and another under the Pannerdesch canal.

The government has allocated 430m guilders towards a planned 2 km four-track tunnel which would replace the existing two track-viaduct through the centre of Delft. This forms a bottleneck on the Rotterdam - Den Haag corridor and is the focus of complaints about noise pollution following the doubling of train services in the past few years. The money has been reallocated from the cancellation of a 7 km section of motorway between Delft and Vlaardingen, but NS must now find other funds to reach the estimated cost of 800m guilders.