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Joining forces for more safety and simplified maintenance in the Piet Heintunnel

Piet Heintunnel

On 20 January 2023 at 21:00, the Piet Heintunnel in Amsterdam was reopened to traffic after 1.5 years of renovation. The aim of the large-scale work was to renew the facilities so that the tunnel fully complies with safety legislation. We were part of the alliance that realised the renovation, along with Heijmans and the municipality of Amsterdam. Let’s take a look back at a large-scale tunnel project that set new standards.

The Piet Heintunnel: A cornerstone of urban mobility in Amsterdam

The Piet Heintunnel is a 1.9-kilometre-long tunnel named after the Dutch maritime hero Piet Hein. It runs under the harbour district in Amsterdam – the IJ – and connects the centre of Amsterdam with the A10 ring road. The tramway, which was put into operation in May 2005, also provides a connection between Amsterdam Central Station and the residential district of Haveneiland.

Completed in 1997, the tunnel is one of the most important traffic arteries in Amsterdam. 30,000 vehicles pass through it every day. After 25 years of intensive use, it was therefore closed on 25 June 2021 for a large-scale renovation.

New ways for new systems: from modular construction to Digital Twin

The aim of the project was to increase safety in the tunnel so that it meets the requirements of the Tunnel Safety Act adopted in 2019. At the same time, maintenance and refurbishment were to be simplified and automated.

In practice, this meant: All installations and systems in the tunnel will be completely renewed and brought up to the next (safety) level. Work was carried out on operating buildings, the heat-resistant cladding of expansion joints in the tunnel tubes and access ramps, the escape doors and water cellars were modified, lighting, emergency call cabinets, ventilation, camera systems and fire alarm systems were renewed and much more.

To carry out the large number of complex works, the municipality of Amsterdam has formed an alliance with us and the Dutch construction company Heijmans. The two companies have worked together before on infrastructure projects in the region and are therefore a well-coordinated team, which also proved itself during the renovation of the Piet Heintunnel.

While Heijmans took care of the cables, pipelines and communication systems, we were responsible for the traffic installations, mechanical installations and systems engineering. The team broke new ground and used state-of-the-art techniques to ensure maximum safety for the travelling public while keeping maintenance requirements hassle-free for the operators.

Modular construction for less maintenance

To ensure that the new systems can be maintained with little effort, we used a modular construction method. For this purpose, 100-metre-long sections were defined between the emergency exit doors, for each of which a separate installation was carried out. Since only the individual sections have to be shut down for maintenances instead of the entire tunnel, the modular design significantly simplifies service and repair.

Digital twin for efficient tunnel operation

In order to test the newly installed systems before commissioning, we used an interactive digital twin – a 3D model of the tunnel that shows all installations together with their surroundings in a virtual model.

Linked to the new tunnel control software and the new workstation for operating and monitoring the tunnel, the digital twin allows all possible scenarios in the renovated tunnel to be recreated very accurately and the functionality of the systems to be tested – without having to disrupt tunnel operations.

Any errors, irregularities or problems can thus be detected and remedied at an early stage. This reduces costs and increases efficiency in the renovation but also in the maintenance and servicing of the tunnel.

More safety, easier operation and reduced maintenance: even though the closure of the Piet Heintunnel was probably a frustration for many road users in Amsterdam, it has been worthwhile all along the line for both drivers and operators. With the new traffic facilities, it is now ready for another 25 years of top performance for Amsterdam and the region.

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