The Netherlands: Nation of stations 10.03.16

Transport

UNStudio’s Arnhem Centraal is the latest in a series of landmark stations across the Dutch network. But the high-speed lines they are meant to serve are far from on track, reveals David Keuning

With the opening of Arnhem Centraal train station in November, a countrywide renovation of the Netherlands’ railway system is one step closer to completion. Nineteen years in the making, this grand building, designed by UNStudio’s Ben van Berkel and featuring the complicated curves that are his trademark, is the latest in a series of six new or refurbished stations: the others are Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam, Utrecht and Breda.

Rotterdam was the first to be finished, in 2014. Designed by Benthem Crouwel, Meyer en Van Schooten and West 8, it is a big success, nicknamed Station Kapsalon (it rhymes in Dutch) because of the wrinkled steel facade’s likeness to a local delicacy involving French fries and melted cheese. Also highly anticipated are stations in Amsterdam (extended and refurbished by Benthem Crouwel and Wiel Arets) and Breda, a new structure with housing and offices by Koen van Velsen. With an expected completion date in 2017, it will be the end of a nationwide building project.

But all that glitters is not gold. The reason these major improvements were initiated was the planned construction of two high-speed lines: one south to Brussels and Paris, and one east to Cologne and beyond. The latter to Germany was never realised, degrading the role of Arnhem Centraal to a flag on a broomstick, while that to Belgium and France is plagued by endless problems. The concrete foundations of the tracks have started to subside in places, making maintenance expensive.

The trains themselves, christened Fyra and built by the Italian firm AnsaldoBreda, were delivered in 2013 but returned almost immediately as some of the carriages lost exterior parts during testing. The ensuing parliamentary inquiry, the conclusions of which were presented in October, blame not only the builder, but also Dutch Railways and the Dutch government for mismanaging the project. The debacle eventually cost the state €88 million, with no high-speed train in sight.

If all goes to plan, in 2017 Eurostar will join Thalys in offering direct services between London and Amsterdam. Everyone is welcome to admire the handsome stations along the way.

In our current issue, pictured below, Ben van Berkel of UN Studio discusses Arnhem Central and the practice's Canaletto tower in London

 

Words

David Keuning

 

Illustration

Assa Ariyoshi

 

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