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Controversial Amsterdam metro project must continue, committee says

DutchAmsterdam.nl — Amsterdam’s problem-plagued North-South metro project should go ahead as planned, a special committee recommends.

The independent Veerman committee, headed by former agriculture minister Cees Veerman, was set up to advise the city on the future of the new metro line — in light of constant budget overruns, revelations regarding deliberate lowball estimates during the bidding process, and damage to historic buildings.

The committee was asked to consider three scenarios: stop the entire project, complete only the Northern part of the line, or complete the entire North-South line. In its report presented to the city council today, the Veerman committee recommends the completion of the entire project. Stopping now would cost the city €1.7 billion, and leave it with the same problems the project was meant to solve.

The committee expects works to continue for 8 more years, nine if the city rejects its suggestion to drill the tunnel from two ends. Total estimated cost: €3.1 billion — €1.6 billion more than planned.

North-South line: budget overruns, shoddy workmanship, damaged buildings

Deemed essential for the city’s economic development, the North-South line was meant to be a prestigious project that would link the Zuidas (Southern Tangent) business district to the center of Amsterdam’s North borough, across the river IJ. Along the way, the metro will run through a 7-kilometers-long tunnel — yet to be dug — underneath the centuries-old historic city center.

Amsterdam metro North South line

Route of the North-South line

Construction of the new line started in 2002, and was scheduled to be completed by 2011, at a cost of €1.4 billion. The federal government agreed to pay €1.1 billion, while the City of Amsterdam would pay €300 million plus any unexpected additional costs.

Subsequently budgetary setbacks, disputes with the construction company, and structural damage to historic buildings along the route of the project led to many delays and cost overruns.

In April, 2008, local newspaper Het Parool labeled the metro project a “bottomless pit.” Last February, Tjeerd Herrema, Alderman for Traffic, Transport and Infrastructure, resigned from his position when faced with yet another cost increase, this time as a result of damage to historic buildings when they subsided due to shoddy workmanship in the construction of one of the metro stations.

One of the most controversial aspects of the project is the drilling of a tunnel underneath Amsterdam’s historic city center. City officials and metro experts, who initially virtually insured that no buildings and monuments would be damaged in the process, later warned that a certain amount of damage can not be avoided.

In December 2008 Tjeerd Herrema said the worst years are yet to come while builders learn how to use newly developed techniques on the job. The collapse of a building in the city center of Cologne, Germany — apparently due to subway construction underneath that city’s historic city center — served as a belated exclamation mark to his statement.

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This post was last updated: Dec. 4, 2013