The Rotterdam Metro in Past, Present and Future

On February 9, 1968, the first section of the Rotterdam metro was opened: six kilometers, six stations, from Central Station to Zuidplein. I was there together with my father, but all I remember is that I saw a lot of people’s legs that day. I was only five and much shorter than I am today.

A few years later, that first line was extended to my hometown of Hoogvliet. This resulted in a spectacular reduction of the travel time to Rotterdam. Instead of a one hour bus ride, the metro took us to “the city” in half an hour.

Metro station Hoogvliet in Rottrdam with a train at the platform and another one approaching, on a rainy day
Hoogvliet metro station

Now, more than fifty years later, the Rotterdam metro network consists of five lines with a total length of more than one hundred kilometers. The network extends to distant neighbourhoods like Nesselande and Hoek van Holland and to suburbs such as Spijkenisse, Capelle aan den IJssel and The Hague.

An interesting but otherwise useless fact: of the 71 metro stations, six have the word haven (harbour) in their names. Find them all!

Map of the metro network in a metro station in Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Harry Beck

Of course, this extended network comes with a map. Like almost all metropolitan maps in the world, this one is clearly inspired by the famous map of the London Underground, made in 1934 by Harry Beck. He was the first to leave out all unnecessary ballast and abstract the network to angles of 45 degrees.

The map of the Rotterdam metro also uses those 45-degree angles, but unfortunately a splotchy kind of airbrushed subsurface with waterways and build-up areas was added underneath.

How would Harry Beck have mapped our metro network? Probably something like this:

Alternative map of the metro metwork of rotterdam, inspired by the London Underground plan by Harry Beck from 1934
Click here for a larger version

The future

In the 1960’s, Coolsingel boulevard was a building site for years to construct the first section of the metro, but the construction of the line under the Blijdorp neighborhood happened almost unnoticed, about ten years ago. The techniques for building underground are becoming increasingly sophisticated; and that’s good, because we will need some more lines in the coming decades. What will the metro map of 2050 look like?

Circle line

There are already ideas about a metro connection from Kralingse Zoom via the Feyenoord City development to Zuidplein. It would make sense to connect that line via Charlois and the Merwe / Vierhaven area with Marconiplein. And why don’t we turn it into a Circle Line: via Overschie, Schiebroek, Hillegersberg and Kralingse Berg back to Kralingse Zoom.

In this way, the airport can finally also be reached by metro. In 2050, by the way, that airport is once again called Zestienhoven and only airships and electric planes arrive and depart there. Flightshame becomes a bad dream of the past.

Petroleum

The transformation of old harbour areas into new city districts, started at Kop van Zuid, will continue unabated in the coming decades. The fossil industries at Pernis and in the Botlek will be hopelessly outdated in the 1930s and 40s and make way for more mixed living and working areas. This asks for another new metro line, nostalgicly named Petroleum line, which at Maassluis joins the Beach line to Hook of Holland. In the opposite direction, this line connects places such as Ridderkerk, Hendrik-Ido-Ambacht, Zwijndrecht and Dordrecht with the Rotterdam metro network.

Future vision for the Rotterdam metro network, with two new lines, visualized as an old school London Underground map
Click here for a larger version

Games of the XXXVII Olympiad

On that line we also find the Olympic Park metro station. After all, it’s obvious that the Olympic Games will be held in Rotterdam in 2040, one hundred years after the bombing and seven hundred years after the city rights.

Deelder

While making these maps, Jules Deelder died: poet, musician and hero of the city. I honored him with a metro station near the Sparta stadium. That’s how they do it in Paris, where some stations are named after historical people (Jacques Bonsergent, Richard Lenoir).

Detail of a fictional metro map of Rotterdam in 2050, based on the London Underground map by Harry Beck from 1934

Is this vision of the future too ambitious for the Rotterdam metro? Or have I forgotten some badly needed metro lines? Let me know, below in the comments!

Update: January 5, 2020

After I put this blog post online on New Year’s Day, I welcomed 15,000 visitors in three days. And that is a larger crowd than I habitually get on my website. Local newspapers Algemeen Dagblad and Havenloods both published an article (in Dutch, of course) about my metro maps.

RET plans

These articles also showed that public transport company RET has a future vision that is, to a certain extent, in line with mine. They have ideas about a kind of half Circle Line, which runs through the Maastunnel after Kralingse Zoom, De Esch, Zuidplein and Charlois and ends, after stops at the Euromast and Erasmus MC, at Central Station. This raises the question of who should make room in the Maastunnel: cars, bicycles or pedestrians.

Furthermore, RET would like to operate metros on the railway line between Rotterdam and Dordrecht. I wonder what that adds to the current local trains by Dutch Railways, also because there are in fact no residential areas along that track between Barendrecht and Zwijndrecht. My extended Petroleum line along Ridderkerk and Hendrik Ido Ambacht would make a lot more sense. But admittedly: a metro line over existing tracks is of course easier and cheaper.

Article in local newspaper De Havenloods about Frans Blok's map of the Rotterdam metro network in 2050, as well as the future plans of public transport company RET
The Havenloods article

Requests

I also received dozens of comments from readers, with many interesting suggestions and additions; they can all be read below. In a number of neighboring municipalities there is a clear need for connection to the metro network. Hundreds of kilometers of new metro tracks were requested. I had no choice but to respond to that it with an extended version of the 2050 map.

But I want to stay realistic. The construction of a metro line is expensive, complex and time-consuming. And a lot can happen in 30 years, but I’m afraid that villages like Rockanje, Moordrecht and Oud-Verlaat still won’t have a metro station in 2050.

However there are three developments that I think are promising:

  • an extension of the very first metro line from Spijkenisse to Hellevoetsluis.
  • a side branch from Kralingse Zoom station to Krimpen aan den IJssel.
  • a new line from Lansingerland-Zoetermeer railway station that meets the existing lines at Rodenrijs and bends to the left from Slinge to end up via Carnisselande at Barendrecht railway station.

Also, in this version, instead of the somewhat boring ABC nomenclature, I have given each line its own name. The First Line and the Cross Line are obvious. The Circle Line and the Petroleum Line have already been mentioned. The Beach Line connects the beaches of Hoek of Holland and Nesselande. The Erasmus Line passes the Erasmus Medical Center and the Woudestein campus of the Erasmus University. The Glass Line owes its name to the greenhouses at Bleiswijk and Barendrecht. And the Hof Line connects Rotterdam to “Hofstad” The Hague on the trajectory of the former Hofplein railway line.

Map of the metro network of Rotterdam, The Netherlands as it may look like in 2050, with three new lines and some smaller extensions
Click here for a larger vision

And finally a funny detail: a friend of mine noticed that the Circle line, with stations J.A.Deelder, De Esch and Feyenoord City, connects the three Rotterdam football clubs Sparta, Excelsior and Feyenoord …

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