Strukton Rail at work in a tunnel
As Site Manager at Strukton Systems, Mark Kuin (47) is responsible for the maintenance of technical tunnel systems, bridges and locks.
He is also involved in the King Willem-Alexander Tunnel, the double-layered tunnel for road traffic below Maastricht.
At first glance, it would not seem logical that I, as a Strukton Rail employee – because Strukton Systems is part of Strukton Rail – am also responsible for the maintenance of a civil work. But appearances can be deceiving, because our team proved to be extremely well-suited for this task. It is a perfect example of cooperation between different Strukton companies.
In the region 24/7
The tunnel has been open to traffic since 16 December 2016. Strukton Civiel signed on for the construction of the tunnel and Strukton Worksphere for the installation of the technical tunnel systems. The maintenance phase started with the tunnel's opening. This is when Strukton Systems became involved. We were asked to look after the maintenance. We already had a malfunction response organisation in the region that remedies infrastructure object malfunctions 24/7. This local presence is of major importance, because when there are any malfunctions in the tunnel, technicians must be present on-site within 45 minutes. We started working intensively together with Strukton Civiel colleagues. We combined their process-oriented and our operational experience, so that at the time of the tunnel's opening we were present with a single team.
The tunnel is 2.3 kilometres long. You cannot just send someone into this tunnel on his own with a backpack
The team comprises ten technicians who always respond to a malfunction in teams of two. This is for reasons of safety: the tunnel is 2.3 kilometres long and you cannot just send someone into the tunnel on his own with a backpack. The technicians have to cover large distances on foot to reach some objects. That means it is impossible for others to quickly arrive on the scene if there is a need for assistance. This is why the principle we abide by is to always enter the tunnel in twos. The technician in the tunnel's central channel is supported by a colleague at the control post who monitors safety.
All team members have completed the necessary training. Because tunnel maintenance is an entirely different undertaking from rail maintenance. Yet, I primarily see similarities. Electrical engineering forms the basis. For example, take the tunnel's own power network. This has many similarities with the railway's power supply system. While it requires retraining, the knowledge and thinking levels are basically the same. All team members are able to work all-round in the tunnel. They all operate as a general practitioner, but each with his own specialty.
“We receive pure praise in our evaluations, for example about our proactive attitude. The reverse is also true; we are very pleased with our client”
The approach hit the bull's eye. After the opening, our team was quickly able to resolve a number of malfunctions. Rijkswaterstaat had a crisis team on standby, but disbanded the team after a few days when they saw we had things under control. And that is still the case today. We receive pure praise in our evaluations, for example about our proactive attitude. The reverse is also true; we are very pleased with our client. Rijkswaterstaat constantly encourages us to improve and that is motivating.
At the present time, the Strukton Systems team still is a subcontractor of Avenue2 Infra. We look after the complete organisation of the tunnel's maintenance, but several formal lines with Strukton Civiel are still in place. This is not only impractical, it is also illogical from a substantive work-related perspective.
I hope this will change in the foreseeable future. The plan is that in addition to Strukton Civiel, Strukton Systems will also become a fully-fledged partner in Avenue2 Infra vof. That way we are creating a blueprint that can readily be used for future projects.