Metro tunnellers in trouble

08 Apr 2009

EUROPE: March 3 was a bad day in Köln. Around 14.00 the building housing the city archive in Waidmarkt collapsed, probably as a result of tunnelling work for the north-south Stadtbahn taking place near the structure. Adjacent buildings were also affected, and by March 13 it became clear that two people had died.

Inquiries were immediately launched, and on March 9 Kölner Verkehrs-Betriebe indicated that checks would be made to ensure safety during the remaining construction. Work on the section between Breslauer Platz and Arnolds­höhe has been in progress since 2002, and after the accident residents along the route were invited to have their houses inspected for possible damage. Initially put at €600m, the project cost now stands at €950m. Trains were due to run in 2010, but this date may now be in question.

The cost increase in Köln is paltry compared with the north-south metro in Amsterdam, where subsidence has also proved a catastrophic problem. Several construction sites on the 9·7 km route between Buikslotermeerplein and Zuid/WTC have lain idle since last September last year following subsidence at Vijzelgracht that damaged a number of historic houses.

In February the municipality of Amsterdam announced that the cost of the project had reached €2·3bn against an estimate of €1·4bn when the controversial scheme was authorised in 2002. It also said that the opening date had been pushed back to 2017 - it was originally 2011 - and even that may be in doubt.

The project claimed a political victim with the resignation on February 19 of Tjeerd Herrema, who as the member of Amsterdam municipal council in charge of transport said he could no longer take responsibility for the delays and cost over-runs. On the same day an independent inquiry was set up under the chairmanship of former agricultural minister Cees Veerman. It is due to report in the summer with recommend­ations for restarting work and securing additional finance.

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