s no question of party. Yet today it is exactly sixty years ago that Rotterdam officially started a feat: the construction of the very first metro line in the Netherlands. A piece of underground railway of a total of six kilometres, for which almost the entire inner city was open for eight years.
In Paris, London and many other cities it was already customary to travel underground in 1960. But building a metro in the marshy Dutch soil was at the time downright revolutionary.
Secretary-General Gieben of the Ministry of Transport and Water Management and the Rotterdam mayor Van Walsum gave the official start of the work on Monday 14 November 1960 by operating a piling machine to store the first dam wall in front of the building dock.
Under the oil spatter
The piling machine works smoothly, but almost everyone present gets stuck under the oil spatter, RTV Rijnmond quotes the newspapers of that day. Its annoying for the dignitaries, but its a harbinger of the chaos that the construction of the subway tunnel through the centre of Rotterdam would yield.
The Polygon Journal reported: “De Coolsingel, the artery of dynamic Rotterdam, will soon be closed for all traffic related to the construction of the metro.” That sounds manageable. But the nuisance was not limited to the Coolsingel.
A canal right through the inner city
The whole downtown was on the shovel. In the huge building dock on the Weena, tunnel sections were built for the first part of the metro line. To get these tunnel sections from the construction dock to their final location, a canal was built right through the centre. At the Island of Brienenoord there will be a second construction dock. There, the tunnel sections were built that were located under the Meuse. On the south side of the river, the subway came above the ground.
Mayor Van Walsum seemed to realise on 14 November that the construction of the metro would cause great nuisance. “But if we are proud of our city, it means that we have to accept all of this – for the sake of its future –”, the newspaper Het Vrije Volk wrote out of his mouth. “More underground railways have been built in the world, but ours will come about in a barely comparable situation and with barely comparable resources,” added Van Walsum.
Subway line of 5.9 kilometres
On November 14, 1960, it was thought that the job would be done in six years. Eventually, the Rotterdam metro was put into operation on 9 February 1968. The metro line was 5.9 kilometers long, there were seven stations and the route ran from Central Station to Zuidplein. In the following years, the metro network was further expanded. Now Rotterdam has 52 metro stations and 162 kilometres of underground rail through the city.
It took a while before the second city in the Netherlands started building a metro line. On 14 October 1977 Amsterdam started the construction of two metro lines between Amsterdam CS and Amsterdam Zuidoost.