At a quarter past ten this morning, the moment had come. Outside it was cold and wet, while inside the Doelen, Princess Beatrix and Prince Claus performed the official deed by pushing two buttons.
Small lamps on a life-sized tableau lit up: the metro lines. Eighteen hundred guests who witnessed the event applauded, and images of the seven metro stations appeared one after another on the slide screen.
Rotterdam, the city that according to State Secretary Mike Keyzer “always digs its way to a better future,” had officially started to use its metro. Without doubt one of the biggest moments in the post-war history of the city. At last, the crowing glory, after eight years of talking, toiling, pile-driving, digging and cursing.
Het Vrije Volk 9-2-1968
On 9 February 1968 the Rotterdam metro officially opened, with as very first passengers Princess Beatrix and Prince Claus. The world’s shortest metro line from Central Station to Zuidplein was just 5.8 kilometres long. But Rotterdam was extremely proud of its metro, the first in the Netherlands. And since then the metro has grown into a network of 78 kilometres, some 17.7 of which are below ground. Spijkenisse, Capelle aan den IJssel, Schiedam and Vlaardingen can also be reached by metro, and since 2010 it even runs to The Hague as part of the RandstadRail system. Now it is hard to imagine Rotterdam without its metro, but it is inconspicuous in the centre, where the all stations are underground owing to a lack of space.
The world’s shortest metro line from Central Station to Zuidplein was just 5.8 kilometres long.
On 14 May 1960 (Construction Day) the first piece of sheetpile entered the ground after years of planning. The idea of allowing trams to pass through their own tunnel beneath the Maas was first mooted in 1954.
The Department of City Development currently has the ambition to construct a new tunnel beneath the Maas, specially for future tram traffic between the north and south banks of the river. The possibility of a tram tunnel has only been raised and studied internally, so the plan is still in an embryonic phase. Nonetheless, it bears testimony to the visionary way in which Rotterdam regards future problems in its reconstruction.
Het Vrije Volk 23-8-1954
Around this time the idea arose to replace the Willemsbrug with tunnels, and plans have already been prepared for the Benelux Tunnel and the Van Brienenoord Bridge, elements of the orbital motorway around Rotterdam. Owing to financial problems, however, the construction of the 35-million-guilder (16-million-euro) tram tunnel was shelved.
The difficult financial situation meant that this proposal had to be added to the many other desirable dreams still awaiting realisation in Rotterdam. In the meantime, however, the city planners were not idle, and they took advantage of the time to elaborate the idea for a tram tunnel as an underground transport network, in very schematic detail of course. The starting point they imagine close to Central Station, from where the route runs through the centre, carefully avoiding the forests of underground sheetpiles, with probably an entrance and exit somewhere on Coolsingel, then diving beneath the river in the direction of Zuidplein or thereabouts. The possibility of branches to other destinations is also under consideration.
De Tijd 19-9-1958
Rotterdam wants a metro
The proposal for a metro network was submitted at the start of 1959. On 14 May 1959 the city council approved, with just one dissenting vote, the construction of the metro for the sum of 134 million guilders (60 million euros). There were scarcely any protests, apart from a small group of tram fanatics and residents on the south bank, unhappy at the prospect of a viaduct right in front of their nose. Only the Telegraaf newspaper in Amsterdam voiced objections: the government gave permission for the metro and not for the IJ Tunnel, on account of the expected problems on the job market.
There were scarcely any protests, apart from a small group of tram fanatics and residents on the south bank, unhappy at the prospect of a viaduct right in front of their nose.
Scarcely any houses had to be demolished for the construction. But it did mean that the centre, at last looking somewhat presentable, was again turned into a gigantic building site for a number of years. On account of the weak ground, it was decided to construct a sunken tunnel structure. A canal was dug along Weena and Coolsingel, and concrete caissons were lowered into them. These caissons were built in a building dock on the as yet undeveloped Weena. A second construction dock was located at Blaak, and a third dock for much longer tunnel sections beneath the river was located on Brienenoord Island. The sections were transported by tugs to their destinations. A drilled tunnel was constructed for the RandstadRail.