News of: Friday, March 12 2010,

Amsterdam's 'Big Dig' starts: tunnel drill gets church blessings

Yesterday was the official start of the drilling of the new metro tunnel through the centre of Amsterdam.

A priest of the Sint Nicolaas Church blessed the two huge drills that are going to work its way through the ground in Amsterdam.

The way the tunnels will be created is more or less experimental, and causes a lot of concern with business owners and residents who live nearby the new North/South Line.

The North/South Line is the new metro line that will connect Amsterdam North with Amsterdam South.

View Amsterdam North-South Line in a larger map

The fear is that buildings along the line will be damaged, or even collapse. Near the new station Vijzelgracht, several houses were already damaged a few years ago.

The first stage of drilling will start at Central Station, along Damrak, to Dam Square. Several inhabitants said on the local news that they will leave their house for a number of weeks, just to be on the safe side. The North/South Line project management have assured that all possible precautions to prevent damage have been taken, and the worst they expect that can happen is 'cosmetic damage'.

The two drilling machines have been named: one is called 'Noortje', the other 'Gravin' (which means Duchess in Dutch, but also sounds like 'graven', the Dutch word for 'to dig').

After the catholic church blessing, the 'tunnel mother' (24-year old Cecilia van der Pol) launched the drills by breaking a bottle of champagne on them.

The drills will move through the ground with a speed of 9 meters per day. They will work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
The drills will really start to work somewhere next week, Wednesday or Thursday.