It is possible to go down to the underground station area of Groningen and it offers an amazing view.
No one who visits a construction site can escape safety measures. You cannot enter the terrain without steel-toed shoes, a helmet, a lighted jacket and a special trail. “We’re pouring a lot of concrete,” says Gerrit Wessels, construction manager for ProRail. Trucks go back and forth. “We must be visible.”
Strukton contractor for ProRail Rail Manager has an office in Achterweg. About sixty people work on the construction site. The construction pit behind the huge main station changes from a gap to the station area that takes shape. Wessels: It’s a stage where so many walls have already been erected that a look at the subway station courtyard gives the first impression of the scale and complexity of the work. Structural work is in full swing, but we’re not there yet.”
Go down the narrow stairs
Different floors accessible. A large group of iron workers work on the deck where dozens of coaches will soon be stopping. The descent is via narrow metal stairs. Deeper is the vast bike vault, which will soon be accessed via a ramp with a rotating path. The space actually offers a view of the long lane under the tracks between Hoofdstation and Zuidplein.
Parts of the renovations at Groningen station are very similar to those at Zwolle. Here too, a wide underground platform tunnel with access to the tracks was constructed and the bus stop was moved from the north side to the south side of the archaeological station. The big difference with Zwolle is that Groningen’s parking facility (6,600 bikes) is located in the sunken railway complex below the city’s station square.
The distance to the regional lines
Another important difference with Zwolle is that the distance from NS trains to regional connections will soon be much smaller. “We really managed to bring these trains closer together,” Wessels says. “It is true that travelers in Zwolle sometimes have difficulty getting a connection or even miss it.” “Kamperlijntje” (Zwolle-Kampen) is 750 meters away from the national train connections. At Groningen Station, all trains are in line with each other, which makes transfers easier.
Watch out for the construction site. Huge crane moves heavy concrete walls with long arm. A ramp has been created to transport the trucks with their loads to their destination quickly. It can be a shortcut for construction workers who want to get in and out of offices quickly. Under the prohibition banner hangs the obligatory text: “This also applies to you.” To emphasize that you really shouldn’t go there.
What does Zuidplein look like?
Commercial spaces near the main station are not yet visible underground. The over 100m long bus tunnel between Stationsweg and the south side of the station area will take some time to complete. In addition, the municipality has yet to say exactly how the Zuidplein will be designed. Planning for this is in full swing.
Wessels refers to the sandblasted columns below the ceilings. “The architect assured us that it was the color of Groningen.” While the trains were running, underground work was in full swing. To make this possible, even the tracks were moved in such a way that work could continue.
sound and vibration
Groningen municipality and the Dutch Railways want to build houses and offices on the north side of the main station where the bus station is now located. As a rail manager, ProRail is not involved in this. ProRail wants there to be enough room to work on the circuit. Homes must also be positioned and constructed in such a way that noise and vibration in and within the homes are within standard.
The expectation is that the municipality and the NS will not come up with the idea of building over the railway line. In this case, ProRail had already received a message about it. Wessels is also aware of the city council debate over the future of the controversial Stadsbalkon, where thousands of bikes are parked. “We don’t know how this discussion will end, but there is room for an additional bike shed here.”
There is no place for Lelylijn
Space for the Lely Line, the high-speed line between Randstad and Groningen, still had to be found in the new station area. “Potential construction has not yet been considered,” says Aldert Bass, a ProRail spokesperson. And it makes sense, too, since plans for that are still being worked out. Lely Line installation is quite a challenge in more residential areas. Development will take many years.
Wessels says he is in Groningen two or three times a week. This is his second job in the province. He previously supervised the construction of the Europapark station in Groningen and the construction of the new installation yard in Haren. The journey between his hometown of Oldebroek and Groningen went well for him. “Although I sometimes get stuck in traffic here because of the southern ring approach. Groningen is quite upside down here and there. But when that is done, the city will have made a good move here with these major projects.”
In 2025, the Great Lockdown will take place for 51 days. This is a period when trains cannot reach the station. Then the contractor completes the project and the station is expected to finally be completed in 2026. Next summer a date will be announced exactly 51 days in advance.
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