The COB focuses on subterranean construction in Dutch soil, but problems and solutions become more and more international. We therefore actively seek collaboration with (European) partners to join forces and learn from each other. This page provides information on our organisation and the research projects and activities that continue beyond the Dutch border.

About the COB

‘COB’ is the abbrevation of ‘Centrum ondergronds bouwen’ which translates to ‘Centre for underground constrution’. In full, the name of the organisation is ‘Netherlands knowledge centre for underground construction and underground space’.

The COB is a network organization, a foundation with more than sixty affiliates, all involved in subterranean construction and the use of subterranean space. The network includes consulting engineers, construction companies, public authorities, and knowledge institutions.


The COB’s philosophy is that the use of subterranean space provides an essential contribution to making the Netherlands attractive, sustainable, and a pleasant place to live. Subterranean construction creates value. The COB, therefore, wants to create a positive development climate for the use of subterranean space, so that the exploitation of the underground becomes a logical part of spatial planning. The costs of subterranean construction are often off-putting, but there are great returns to be achieved in terms of sustainability, space, and quality enhancement.

What and how

The COB collects, develops, and provides access to knowledge about the subterranean use of space. This is done by constantly surveying what issues are current within the network and within Dutch society. The COB then initiates and supervises projects which help to solve the problem which has jointly been identified. The broad composition of working groups means that all relevant aspects of a problem are considered. The knowledge that is acquired belongs to everyone and can be used by everyone. The participants within the COB are not competitors but work together on a solution. The result is shared across the network, by recording it in publications and presenting it at meetings, within training courses, on the website, and in the magazine De Onderbouwing. However, participation itself is already one of the most powerful ways of developing and embedding knowledge.

Tunnel programme

The research projects that are currently being carried out within the tunnel programme of the COB network can also be very valuable for other countries. The tunnel programme is the result of a two-year study into the future of tunnels. The position of tunnels in their immediate environment and their network is changing, the issue of sustainability is coming to the fore and increasingly higher demands are placed on the reliability and availability of tunnels throughout their entire life cycle. In 2016 the COB network developed a long-term vision as a guideline for clients and contractors. In the period from January to September 2017, the COB network, together with external experts, translated that vision on tunnels into concrete goals and an integrated working programme.

>> Download the long-term vision on tunnels in the Netherlands (pdf, 660KB)
>> Download the tunnel programme (pdf, 1.5 MB)
>> Download paper ‘The tunnel program of the Netherlands – the second year of less hindrance and more value’ (pdf, 345 KB)
>> Download the action plan for the civil engineering development line towards 2030 (pdf, 1 MB)

Participate with your tunnel project to make tunnel lighting more sustainable

Studies and tests show that there are various possibilities for reducing the energy consumption for lighting in tunnels. This was reason enough for the COB to start a research programme together with network parties, including Rijkswaterstaat. The COB is looking for tunnel projects at home and abroad to carry out this research. Interested parties can apply to the COB for one of the fourteen research projects. For more information contact Harry de Haan via or 0031- 85 4862 410.

Structural health analysis (SHA)

In the Netherlands, the COB has started with so-called structural health analyses for tunnel projects. In this process, experts from the COB network will help to get insight into the structural condition of the tunnel.
>> See roadmap SHA (jpg, 1 MB)

Past international activities

European conference on November 27th, 2020

The subject of “predictive digital tunnel twins” is a key focus area on an evolving European collaborative program on tunnel maintenance and renovation, coordinated by the Conference of European Directors of Roads (CEDR) and managed by Rijkswaterstaat in conjunction with the Centre for Subterranean Construction (COB). The program was kicked off at the European Tunnel conference of 27 November 2020 and builds towards a first trans-European call in 2022.
>> More information

European workshop June 25th, 2020

Experience shows that tunnel operators across Europe have similar civil and safety issues. By working together in a structured network (of networks), redundant research can be avoided and leverage can be achieved by aligning individual research budgets. In an online European workshop, we discussed the concept of this collaboration as we intend to design it in 2020 and beyond.
>> More information

Visit Oresund and Fehmarnbelt March 17th 2020

A visit to the Oresund tunnel was planned for 17 March 2020. Due to a travel ban (Covid-19), this trip could unfortunately not take place and the meeting took place online. Collaboration is of great importance for both organizations. The sequel will be picked up within the CEDR partnership. The Øresund Tunnel forms part of the fixed link between Zeeland in Denmark and Scania in Sweden. The 16km long tunnel, island, and bridge link consists of a four-lane motorway and a dual-track high-speed rail line between Kastrup near Copenhagen and Lernacken near Malmö.
>> Download the presentation

First edition Beyond a tunnel vision

November 27th, 2018, a new international tunnel congress was launched, named Beyond a tunnel vision. An immediate major response was noted: 350 people attended the conference that took place in Brussels, Belgium. Participants came not only from Belgium and The Netherlandse but also from France, UK, Germany, Sweden, Spain, Denmark, Poland,
the Czech Republic and Luxemburg. The conference focused on how tunnels can be renovated in a clever way.
>> Read the congress report of 2018 (pdf, 335 KB)
>> See all subsessions of 2018

WTC 2019, Naples

The COB was also present at the World Tunnel Congress in Naples, 3-9 May 2019. The abstract about the Dutch tunnel program was accepted:

The tunnel program of the Netherlands – the second year of less hindrance and more value
>> Download abstract (pdf, 130 KB)
>> Download the paper (pdf, 345 KB)

The opportunity was also used to organize a workshop about a position paper on tunnels. As infrastructural nodes, tunnels are of great importance in Europe and should therefore be on the priority list for European funds. The tunnel community has composed a position paper that outlines the challenges we are facing and explains why funded research is necessary and urgent.

Visit Asfinag april 2019

The Austrian tunnel organization Asfinag has renovated a large number of tunnels in a short period of time. This successful approach is very interesting for all parties in the Netherlands and Flanders who have to carry out major renovation programs and face the same challenges. April 17 and 18 2019, experts from Asfinag visited the COB to share their knowledge.
>> Read more

WTC 2018, Dubai

Three research projects of the COB network were presented at the WTC2018 in Dubai:

  • Tuesday 24th, Sheikh Maktoum A, 2:20-2:40 PM – Karin de Haas, Long-term vision and working program on tunnels in the Netherlands
    >> Download presentation (pdf, 3.4 MB)
  • Tuesday 24th, Sheikh Maktoum B, 2:40-3:00 PM – Paul Janssen, Working towards a zero-energy tunnel – technical, contractual, and process solutions
  • Each conference day from 3 PM you could visit the poster presentation of Hans de Man about the digital tunnel twin

In total, six papers were submitted:

  1. Energy reduction in tunnels (pdf, 410 KB)
  2. Long term vision on tunnels in the Netherlands (pdf, 330 KB)
  3. The digital tunnel twin (pdf, 320 KB)
  4. The real-life expectancy of tunnels (pdf, 310 KB)
  5. Adaptable construction and renovation of tunnels (pdf, 460 KB)
  6. The future of technical installations in tunnels (pdf, 200 KB)