All about cycling in the Netherlands
The Rotterdam station area reconstruction has yet to be finished. This may come as a surprise to some, because the king already reopened the station more than three years ago. Yes, most of the station has been finished long ago, but some of the streets at the back of the station building are currently still under reconstruction. That last project in the station area is nearing completion though, so why don’t we have a look at what’s happening.
The contrast between the front and the back of the station was enormous. The front has that station hall with the outstanding architecture connected to the beautiful – almost car-free – Station Square with trams running on grass tracks. The back side had streets cluttered with a taxi stand, an old kiosk building, outside bicycle parking, tram rails and many people trying to find their way on foot, on bicycles and in cars. The city had already made a design in 2012, that only now is nearing completion, more than two years after the initial expected date of completion. It took so long because the residents and other stake holders like taxi drivers, had many complaints.
The wish of the city to reconnect the two canals, that had long been separated by a dam, met with fierce resistance. The city planned to remove the dam and construct two bridges in its place. The extra body of water that would be a consequence of this plan would also be good to store surplus rain water in the area. Something which is very needed with the increased chance of extreme weather conditions due to global warming. All the run off rain water from the gigantic new station roof also needs to find a way into the ground at the back of the station. A larger body of water would also be good for that reason. What could you have against this plan? Well, the residents feared a changed water table which could be dangerous to their homes. The buildings stand on a foundation of wooden piles, driven into the ground. When these wooden piles get too wet they might rot and the buildings could be damaged because of it. The city had the consequences of the reconnection investigated further and in the end, it was decided to reconnect both canals after all, since those re-connected canals would have little to no effect on the water table.
Residents of a street in the project objected to the removal of all 20 existing trees in their street (Stationssingel). Only after the city explained that at some part the street had compressed so much, that it would have to be raised again by up to 50 centimetres and that trees will not survive such a level change, they reluctantly agreed. But only after the city also promised the 22 replacement trees would be more mature than the tiny trees the Dutch usually plant. Parking wasn’t so much an issue. Of the 88 existing car parking spaces 66 return in the new design. Not many people seemed to be bothered by the loss of these 22 parking places. That doesn’t mean the residents were very happy. From the minutes of the information nights the image emerges that the residents were very disappointed with how their remarks were dismissed and not taken seriously by the city. The fact that the city overruled earlier plans of the district council was not something the residents took lightly either.
The project required a 10-million-euro investment. The new bi-directional 3.5 metre wide cycleway is a big difference compared to the on-street cycle lanes the streets used to have. Not all changes are that visible though. All the sewer pipes and cables have also been replaced. It is a normal procedure in the Netherlands to do all that work at the same time. This keeps the costs down and means that once the area is finished it won’t have to be dug up any time soon. The tram tracks were also completely renewed even though this is not an operating line, just tracks that can be used in case of an emergency on other lines. Some of the design features of the front side of the station will also be used here at the back. That increases the quality of the area and makes it more recognisable as well.
The works on the redesign of the back of the station started in June 2016 and while it was initially thought to be finished early 2018, it was now announced that the project can be finished before the end of 2017.
A ride on the nearly finished reconstructed streets behind Rotterdam’s Central Station.