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HSL-Zuid starts to take shape

01 Apr 2002

INTRO: Civil engineering work is underway along the route of the Netherlands' first 300 km/h line, although delays in awarding the E&M and operating concessions have pushed back the opening date to October 1 2006. Chris Jackson reports

IN A MUDDY POLDER just east of Leiden a temporary construction camp has sprung up alongside the A4 motorway. Steel piling lines a deep trench, leading to an enormous covered shed. Concrete silos and cranes dot the skyline. All around is bustle and activity. Welcome to Bospolder.

Preparatory work has been underway here for the past year, and last November saw the start of boring for the longest rail tunnel in the Netherlands. Due to hole through in 2004, and be fitted out by the end of 2005, the 7·2 km bore will carry the country's first high speed line beneath the sensitive Groene Haart nature reserve.

More than a decade after plans were first drawn up for a 300 km/h link between Amsterdam and the Belgian border, construction of the 100 km route is in full swing. Total cost of the project is now put at €5·3bn at 2000 prices. HSL-Zuid will link Amsterdam and Rotterdam to Antwerpen, Brussels and Paris.

From mid-2005 Rotterdam will join the Trans-European Network of high speed lines; Amsterdam and Schiphol Airport will be added in October 2006. A quick sprint from Amsterdam to Rotterdam will take no more than 35min. Amsterdam - London will be cut to 3h 43min, changing in Brussels, and Eurostar Group said in February that a through service was now 'a distinct possibility'. Even Barcelona will be little more than 7h away.

Improving transport links throughout the Randstad conurbation is expected to give a significant boost to the Dutch economy and improve international competitiveness. The line is expected to carry up to 7 million international passengers a year, and twice as many domestic inter-city trips.

Project management

HSL-Zuid is being directly managed by the Ministry of Transport, Public Works & Water Management, with the Project Organisation forming part of the Directorate-General for Public Works & Water Management (Rijkswaterstaat). As well as ministry staff, the project team includes experts seconded from outside organisations such as Railinfrabeheer, Holland Railconsult and DHV Milieu en Infrastructuur.

Exploratory studies and exhaustive public consultation preceded the decision to build the line. The Key Planning Decision process ran from 1991-97, and was followed by a formal vote in Parliament. After that, detailed design of the alignment and planning approval had to be obtained under the Infrastructure (Planning Procedures) Act (Tracéwet). Following evaluation of various objections by the cabinet, the final route was agreed during 2000. That allowed the first construction contracts to be awarded in the same year.

Many thousands of licences and consents have been required for construction, including tree-felling, drainage and building permits, to name just three. The HSL Project Organisation has been working closely with the various provincial, municipal and water authorities, and with local residents, the business community, and other parties. The construction process has been designed to minimise disruption and nuisance, and similar measures are being built in to minimise the impact of high speed operations. Extensive consultation has been required over landscaping, environmental and wildlife protection, and noise abatement.

Contracts and concessions

HSL-Zuid is being financed through a public-private partnership, which is reflected in the various contracts and concessions to build, equip and operate the route. Throughout the process, the Project Organisation has sought to prevent mistakes at the construction stage which might lead to unnecessary expense. Thus the main civil engineering contracts cover design, construction and maintenance to an agreed functional specification.

Construction of the substructure and formation is being financed directly by the government, and has been split into six large contracts (Table I). Each of these primary contracts is valued at around €400m. In addition, a seventh contract has been awarded to the Infrarail consortium for the interface works required to link the new line to the existing network.

Mechanical and electrical equipment will be supplied, installed and maintained under a 25-year 'rail systems' concession valued at €2·5bn (RG 6.01 p369). The Infraspeed consortium will design, build, finance and maintain the track, catenary and power supply system, signalling, telecommunications and noise barriers. Infraspeed will also be responsible for the management and maintenance of concrete structures, and will receive a total of €1·2bn from the government over the life of the concession.

Train operations will also be provided under an exclusive concession, with the operating consortium paying a fee for the exclusive right to carry domestic and international passengers on the line. After a bidding process involving four consortia, the Transport and Finance ministries finally signed an agreement with a joint venture of Netherlands Railways and Dutch airline KLM on December 12 2001. Under the deal, NS and KLM will pay €148m a year for exclusive use of the HSL-Zuid infrastructure over 15 years.

HSL-Zuid is expected to carry 96 trains/day each way when it opens. There will be 80 domestic inter-city services linking Amsterdam, Schiphol Airport, Rotterdam and Breda with other cities, including Den Haag. The other 16 trains will be international services from Amsterdam to Antwerpen and Brussels; of these about half are expected to continue to Paris. Target journey time for the international trains is 40min from Schiphol to the Belgian border.

The route in brief

The gently-curved alignment has been carefully fitted into the Dutch landscape to minimise environmental impact. Much of the route will be at ground level, and wherever possible the line runs parallel to existing railways or the A4 and A16 motorways. The high speed trains will also use existing lines to access the city centres in Amsterdam and Rotterdam, avoiding the need for expensive and disruptive construction in urban areas.

There will be over 170 structures along the route, including four tunnels, bridges and viaducts. The whole route north of Hollandsch Diep will have piled foundations to support the line in soft ground. The south end, where the line runs at ground level, will have a concrete slab below the formation and no piles. All the major civil works, concrete-lined cuttings, bridges and viaducts will have piled foundations.

The high speed services will use existing tracks from Amsterdam Centraal to Schiphol Airport. At Hoofddorp, a flying junction will lead onto a new 300 km/h alignment which runs as far as Rotterdam Blijdorp. This initially parallels the Schiphol - Leiden line as far as Nieuwe Vennep, and then curves south to dive under a new aqueduct carrying the Ringvaart Haarlemmermeer canal.

For 8 km between Burgerveen and Leiden, the line will run alongside the A4 motorway. Just north of Bospolder, the road will be sunk into a long cutting to allow the railway to cross it at ground level on a very gently skewed bridge. The railway will then dive into the Groene Haart tunnel. Work on the motorway crossing began in early 2001 with a temporary diversion of the road. The eastern carriageway is due to be slewed into the new trench this year, and the western side by the end of 2003, enabling the rail bridge to be erected in 2004.

South of the Groene Haart, the line resurfaces at Westeinde and skirts the eastern side of the newest Zoetermeer suburb of Oosterhem. A 6 km viaduct at Bleiswijk will carry the trains above the existing glasshouses and market gardens. Approaching Rotterdam from the north, the route will run through a 4 km cut-and-cover tunnel to meet the existing line near Blijdorp Zoo. Trains will have to slow to 60 km/h to traverse the sharp curve leading into Rotterdam Centraal.

After traversing the existing four-track tunnel under the Nieuwe Maas, the high speed trains will regain their own tracks at Lombardijen/Barendrecht. Here a new nine-track covered way will carry four tracks of the conventional line, two for HSL-Zuid and three for the Betuwe Route freight corridor through the town centre. The new line then loops west and south of Dordrecht, passing through two immersed-tube tunnels under the Oude Maas and Dortsche Kill waterways. Site work and segment construction for the two tunnels began last year; the sinking of tunnel sections is scheduled to begin in 2003, with pump-out planned for early 2004 and completion in 2005.

HSL-Zuid will cross the Hollandsch Diep on a 1·2 km new bridge parallel to the existing structure. Piling for this began in 2001, and the decking is to be installed in 2002-03. The final 25 km section from Moerdijk through Brabant parallels the existing railway from the bridge to Lage Zwaluwe and then the A16 motorway past Breda to the Belgian border. Connections to the existing network will allow domestic trains to call at Breda; a cross-border service will link that city with Antwerpen and Brussels.

The bulk of the civil engineering works are due to be finished in 2004. Tracklaying is due to start at the end of 2003, and signalling and telecoms installation in 2004. Systems work should be completed by the end of 2005. n

HSL-Zuid key statistics

Total length 100 km

Of which only 25% at ground level

Cost (at 2000 prices) i5·3bn

Opening date October 1 2006

Maximum speed 300 km/h

Power supply 25 kV 50Hz

No level crossings

TABLE: Table I. Construction contracts and consortia

1) Hollandse Meren, Hoofddorp - Leidersdorp. 16 km

Ballast Nedam, Boskalis Westminster, Volker Wessels Stevin, Strukton, Dura Vermeer.

Includes construction of aqueduct to carry waterway over the new line at Haarlemmermeer, skew crossing of A4 motorway, and widening of A4 to three lanes between Haarlemmermeer and Leidersdorp.

2) Groene Haart tunnel. 7·2 km

Bouygues/Koop Tjuchem joint venture.

3) Zuid-Holland Midden, Reijnwoude - Rotterdam. 19 km

BAM NBM, HBG, Heijmans.

Includes 6 km Bleiswijk viaduct, 3 km cutting at Bergschenhoek and 4 km tunnel on northern approach to Rotterdam.

4) HSL Drechtse Steden VoF, Barendrecht - Moerdijk. 15 km

Ballast Nedam, Van Hattum & Blankevoort, Strukton Groep, Van Oord ACZ, Maasdiep.

Includes two immersed-tube tunnels under Oude Maas and Dortsche Kill, plus new Hollandsche Diep bridge.

5) HSL Brabant, Moerdijk - Breda. 11 km

Ballast Nedam, Boskalis Westminster, Volker Wessels Stevin, Strukton, Dura Vermeer.

Includes de Mark bridge and widening of A16 motorway.

6) Brabant Zuid, Breda - border. 14 km

HBG, Heijmans, BAM NBM, Philipp Holzmann.

Includes1·2 km part-covered concrete trench at Prinsenbeek and widening of A16.

7) Railway interface works

Infrarail consortium: Ballast Nedam, HBG, Volker Wessels Stevin, BAM NBM.

New connections at Hoofddorp, Rotterdam Lombardijen, Lage Zwaluwe and Breda, plus upgrading of existing lines, Amsterdam - Hoofddorp and Lombardijen - Barendrecht.

8) E&M works - 25-year finance, design, build and maintain concession

Infraspeed consortium: Fluor Daniel, BAM NBM, Siemens, Innisfree, Charterhouse.

Responsible for track, overhead line equipment and power supplies, signalling and communications, and noise barriers.

CAPTION: A long piled cutting at Bospolder (above) will lower HSL-Zuid from ground level to the northern portal of the Groene Haart tunnel, where the main boring site is located (below right)

CAPTION: Road diversions are being put in place just north of Leidersdorp, where the A4 motorway will be lowered into a trench to dive under the ground-level railway

CAPTION: Cut-and-cover construction is being used for the 4 km tunnel north of Rotterdam

HSL-Zuid starts to take shape

Civil engineering work is well under way along the route of the Netherlands' first 300 km/h line, although delays in awarding the E&M and operating concessions have pushed back the opening date to October 1 2006. Chris Jackson visited the worksite near Leiden, where the boring of a 7·2 km tunnel began in November. Under the E&M systems concession, tracklaying is to start at the end of 2003, with signalling and telecommunications to follow in 2004. The Rotterdam - border section will be handed over to the operating consortium of Netherlands Railways and KLM in mid-2005, and the rest in early 2006

La HSL-Zuid prend forme

Les travaux de génie civil sont en cours tout le long de ce qui sera la première ligne