Published On: Tue, Mar 12th, 2024

Inside ‘Europe’s most important mega-project’ with mammoth £3.84bn tunnels under city | World | News

Antwerp is world famous for its fine art, stunning architecture and culture.

Its mammoth infrastructure project however, The Oosterweel Link, is not quite world renowned – but it’s still classed as one of Europe’s most vital projects.

The construction project first proposed in 1996 and has an estimated overall cost of £3.84bn. The B1M publication has called it “Europe’s most important — and lesser-known — megaprojects”. 

This is because the European city is perfectly placed for international trade with Netherlands to the north, Germany to the East, Brussels to the South and to the West the North Sea.

The city is also home to one of the globe’s most important seaports, with crucial highways linking other countries and cities with the Antwerp Ring Road. 

However the ring road is not complete – and using it has become infamous for congestion and traffic jams. The Oosterweel Link will finally join it together.

The reason for the delay is perhaps due to the almighty challenge of the project presents – including going under the city’s Scheldt river.

The 15km-long motorway connection is being developed by Lantis and consists of five sub-projects including Linkeroever, Zwijndrecht, Scheldt tunnel, Oosterweel junction, Canal tunnels and R1-Noord.

The contract to create the link was awarded to Temporary Trade Association COTU consortium consisting of Besix, Bam Contractors, Deme and Jan de Nul for the construction of the Scheldt tunnel in June 2020. The Scheldt Tunnel is where the left and right banks of the river will meet.

Jan Bauwens, project director for the consortium, said: “First of all we had to excavate a huge construction pit going up to 25m below the surface. That meant dewatering of the soil and excavating.

“From the moment we had this construction pit ready we could start building the actual tunnel. And that is what we are building at this moment,” reports The B1M.

He also told the same publication workers would have to navigate “a lot of obstacles” and that’s “because it’s also the area where the old city walls were situated.”

The tunnels will allow drivers and cyclists to travel through Antwerp underground, with two-directional travel facilitated by stacking some of those sections on top of one another.

The main construction works for the project commenced in February 2018. The entire Oosterweel Link is set to become operational in 2030.

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