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Around the World with Yunex Traffic: Netherlands

Extensive renovation of the Piet Hein tunnel – Yunex Traffic ensures safe driving with the latest technology

The Piet Hein Tunnel is part of one of the four main arteries of the Amsterdam road network. About 30,000 vehicles pass through it every day. The 1,500 meter long tunnel has been in use since 1997. Major maintenance was urgently required, tunnel technical installations are generally written off after 15 years. This is taking place as part of the Approach Amsterdam Road Tunnels or AWA program for integrated operation and control of all municipal car tunnels. “With the large-scale renovation of the Piet Hein tunnel, we are laying an important foundation for this,” explains Koen Beukers, who is the responsible Project Manager of Yunex Traffic.

“The municipality has brought together multiple major projects within the AWA program,” Koen explains. ‘The main objective is to guarantee the accessibility of Amsterdam. With less traffic disruption due to higher availability and predictability. This is achieved by realizing future-proof road tunnels that meet all legal requirements. Safe to use, easy to operate and easy to maintain. The traffic control center from which the tunnels are operated and monitored is also being renovated. It is expected to be ready in 2025.”

New technology for safer tunnels

Photo by Tom Feenstra

During the renovation of the Piet Hein tunnel, the technical installations will be replaced and heat-resistant cladding will be applied. New lighting, ventilation, emergency exit doors and water drainage will ensure that the tunnel complies with safety legislation. The systems and tunnel controls will also be completely renewed and expanded. This in combination with major maintenance on the civil and architectural parts. All cabling, components, asphalt and service buildings: a refurbishment from A to Z. The acquired knowledge and skills will be transferred to the other projects.

Special contract form: cooperation instead of commissioning

For this project there was a need for a flexible contract with a joint risk pot. The preparation process had not been completed yet and not all information was available at the time of tendering. That is why the municipality decided to form an alliance with the combination of Yunex Traffic and Heijmans Infra. Within the alliance, we at Yunex Traffic provide a range of services from tunnel operation and control, the network, traffic and mechanical installations to system engineering.

Together with project manager Arnoud op den Kelder of the municipality of Amsterdam, Koen is responsible for the day-to-day management of the project. “This contract form deviates from the traditional division of roles client-contractor. We really work together, the municipality itself participates in the project team. Due to the special structure of the collaboration, we can focus as much as possible on the content. Our basic principle is to select best for project solutions to ensure an optimal division of work.”

Photo by Tom Feenstra

Predictable maintenance: less time needed for maintenance and renovation

Photo by Tom Feenstra

An important starting point for the design of the new tunnel technology is uniformity of the installations. “The design is built up in identical 100-metre sections defined around the emergency exit doors. Each section has the same control box. The power is in the repetition. By applying unambiguous material choices, a limited stock of spare parts is required for maintenance, service or repair. Predictable maintenance can also be applied: repair or replacement of tunnel components at the right time. By section, instead of the whole tunnel. Maintenance and renovation require less time. And that also means: less hindrance from road traffic due to maintenance and repair work.”

Digital Tunnel Twin facilitates planning and construction

“All parties work together in one digital environment,” says Koen. “We use an interactive digital tunnel twin to design, test, build, deliver, manage and adapt the tunnel. This is a workplace for operating and monitoring the virtual copy of the tunnel. The tunnel was mapped using 3D tunnel scans. This produces a point cloud that serves as the basis for the 3D building information model. The design models have been added to this. The alliance then worked out the models for the final and implementation design. This is going well and according to plan.”

Due to central management, the BIM model is always accurate and up-to-date. It is accessible to all parties involved, in all project phases. This reduces costs and lead time and increases efficiency. “We can quickly make design changes, which was especially helpful while the COVID-19 restrictions were in place. The virtual commissioning allows us to check the operation of the automation applications and interfaces in detail. Furthermore, the digital twin is used to train the tunnel managers with simulated scenarios.”

Photo by Tom Feenstra

A strong team overcomes even the most difficult conditions

Photo by Tom Feenstra

On June 25, 2021, the work on the physical tunnel officially started and it was closed to all traffic for a year and a half. The municipality ensured that the IJtram could continue to run and offered smart travel alternatives. “We were immediately faced with 1.5-metre distancing to control the spread of the coronavirus. This had important consequences for the people who carried out the work. “The diligence and creativity with which this has been tackled deserves a great compliment to all involved,” says Koen. He is very much looking forward to December 2, 2022: the day when all traffic can start using this important connection again. As the first Amsterdam tunnel with a completely new operation and control system.