Maastunnel


Useful Information

Location: Bezoekerscentrum Maastunnel, Charloisse Hoofd 27, 3087 CA Rotterdam.
(51.897480, 4.468090)
Open: no restrictions.
[2022]
Fee: free.
[2022]
Classification: SubterraneaTunnel
Light: LightLED Lighting
Dimension: L=1373 m, Lunderground=1070 m, VR=20 m.
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography:  
Address: Bezoekerscentrum Maastunnel, Charloisse Hoofd 27, 3087 CA Rotterdam.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.

History

1937 begin of construction.
1942 opened secretly because the Netherlands were occupied by the Nazis.
1944 Nazis found out about its existence and placed explosives.
2017 begin of restoration.
2020 restoration completed, tunnel fully reopened.

Description

The Maastunnel is a rather unimpressive concrete tunnel, with three tubes, two two-lane road tunnels, a bicycle tunnel, and a pedestrian tunnels. It crosses the Maas river in the middle of Rotterdam, connecting the city center of Rotterdam on the northern shore with the cities and harbours on the southern shore. This was a tunnel of great strategic importance for the city, and when it was built in 1949 it was the first road tunnel in the Netherlands across a river, in other words underwater. But the main reason we listed it, is its rectangular profile, which is quite exceptional if you think about it. Tunnels must resist the pressure of the overlying rocks. So they are normally circular, with a shell of reinforced concrete which withstands enormous pressure.

The Maas is a river, and actually it is not that deep. This tunnel was not built the traditional way, by digging a hole in solid ground. It used a new method called immersed tube method. Segments of the tunnel were built somewhere in a dry dock, they looked like hollow bricks. Nine prefabricated concrete segments, 61 m long, 25 m wide and 9 m high, where needed. For reasons of hygiene, the tunnel tubes were covered with 800,000 white ceramic tiles. In the river bed a ditch was created with special dredge ships, which are normally used to keep the river deep enough for the ships. Then the segments were brought to the ditch, swimming, and lowered into the ditch from above. The last step was to connect the segments watertight and then remove the temporary walls.

There are road ramps from the surface to the actual begin of the tunnel on both sides, only partly covered. The bicycle and pedestrian tunnel have separate access buildings with long escalators. And on both sides are ventilation buildings, 34 m high above ground and 26 m underground. The fresh air is pressed into the tunnel through air duct below the road tunnels. Those ventilation buildings are easy to recognize, they have a copper domed roof.

So this is the Netherlands’ first car tunnel, and the first tunnel ever built via the immersed tube method. Obviously there is neither much need nor much possibility to build tunnels in this extremely flat country. It was started immediately before World War II, and was still under construction when the country was occupied in 1940. They managed to complete it, and so it was finally opened in 1942 in a small, unofficial ceremony. There is a legend, that the tunnel was completed in secrecy, and that this was the reason why there was no inauguration. The Nazis nevertheless found out about its existence and then placed explosives in the tunnel. This legend is mostly nonsense, the tunnel was indisputably opened, so it was used by people, it's impossible that the Germans did not notice a four lane road entering a tunnel. Actually the Germans wanted to have a great opening for reasons of prestige, but the population was against it. And of course they placed explosive, this was the default, as such a tunnel was of great strategic importance. In their retreat in 1944 they actually tried to blow it up, so allied forces would not use it. The Dutch resistance sabotaged their triggers, so it never exploded, fortunately.

Today it is, despite its rather dull design, an important historic site and a technical monument. There is even a Visitor Center at the southern entrance, that's why we have given the coordinates of this Visitor Center. If you walk through Rotterdam, you might cross the tunnel by foot, see the visitor center and return through the tunnel.

After 75 years, the Maastunnel was due for a thorough refurbishment in 2017. First the western autotube, then the eastern, and finally the bicycle and pedestrian tunnels. The restoration was completed in 2020.