Maastricht residents are proud of their tunnel. And so is Bart
Bart Grote (50) is environment manager and team leader at Strukton Civiel
He is very closely involved in the A2 tunnel under Maastricht and the development of the surrounding area.
We like to think that we're limiting the inconvenience by making noise during the day so that people can sleep undisturbed at night. But what if there’s a resident who works at night and sleeps during the day? 'Then you'll just have to work during the day' is obviously not the right thing to say. We must never underestimate how much inconvenience someone experiences from our work. The word 'environment management' seems to suggest that you can manage the environment, but you can't influence the reaction from the environment. At least, not for the full 100 percent. Partially, you can. For example, the night shift worker from my example was delighted when we suggested that we provide double insulation of his windows.
Communication as a whole
That's just one example of the importance of having a good relationship with your environment. Together with many other parties, Strukton has been working in and around Maastricht for ten years. And still: the Noorderbrug project is still in full swing. I started working on the A2 tunnel as tender manager and then went on to be project leader for the northern tunnel entrance, due to all the parties involved and interested parties there. You could say that this was the start of environment management in this project. Later, the client asked us to appoint an environment manager. I took that role on, together with an environment manager from Rijkswaterstaat (Directorate-General for Public Works and Water Management). At the time, public and building communication were strictly separate, but that didn't work well. When you're breaking open a pavement, you obviously can't tell local residents today that you're going to be doing it and tomorrow send the client to the same local residents to explain why we're actually doing this project. We soon realised that it's best to communicate as a unit.
We were literally working in people's front gardens. The edge of the tunnel was right on their boundary
Lots of cups of coffee
Much of our work is actually communication. The local residents are an important target group for us. They want to know why their street is being dug up, how long it will take and how much it will affect them. In one case, we were literally working in people's front gardens. The edge of the tunnel was right on their boundary. A colleague and I visited those people to ask if we could rent part of their front garden. We needed somewhere to temporarily store cables and pipelines and they needed a path so that they could access their house. I can tell you: a lot of coffee and financial compensation was needed before all the owners of that row of houses were convinced. Even afterwards, I regularly visited them, for even more coffee. We also had to inform people further away. The motorway directly passed the construction pit and we regularly closed sections of the road. Regional and long-distance traffic had to be diverted via the right routes. That required endless coordination, among others with the road authorities from Rijkswaterstaat (Directorate-General for Public Works and Water Management) and the municipality.
"My golden rule in environment management: say what you're doing and do what you say"
Then there were the companies which wanted to know what was going to be happening and how it would affect their business operations. During the project in Maastricht, I regularly updated the entrepreneurs. Every few months, we'd have a meeting where I'd tell them the plans for the coming period, what roads we'd be closing and how their company would remain accessible. Companies must always be accessible, even if it's just for one employee. In the beginning, the room was full of attentive entrepreneurs asking lots of critical questions. As time went by, they learned to trust us. Eventually, only a few people turned up at the meeting. Incidentally, the contact with that group wasn't limited to just the sessions. They could also contact me in between and regularly took advantage of the opportunity.
In the ten years that I've been walking, driving and cycling in Maastricht, I've learned that the benefit of environment management is mainly in the preliminary phase. Then I can urge colleagues to regularly turn off the machines, to wave to residents now and then and briefly explain what they're doing. My golden rule in environment management: say what you're doing and do what you say Beforehand is the ideal moment to calmly explain why we are turning their gardens upside down and for how long. During those conversations, I always showed them the computer animations from the plans: look, that's what it will look like. With that endless long green stripe through the heart of the city. What's really nice: that's how it's actually turned out. Maastricht residents also gradually realised this and became enthusiastic about the project. And even proud. Just like me.