The COB is a network organisation, 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.

International activities

The COB focusses 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.

European conference on November 27th 2020

The subject of “predictive digital tunnel twins” is a key focus area on an evolving European collaborative programme 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 programme was kicked off in 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 Eupean 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

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, availability and noise levels 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 programme. This tunnel programme currently (2018) includes eight active research projects!
>> Download the long-term vision on tunnels in the Netherlands (pdf, 660KB)
>> Download the tunnel programme (pdf, 1.5 MB)
>> Download paper ‘The tunnel programme 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)

Structural health analysis (SHA)

In the Netherlands the COB has started with so called structural health analyes 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)

International conference:
Beyond a tunnel vision

After a successful first edition in 2018, there will be another international tunnel congress in 2020, this time in the Netherlands! Beyond a tunnel vision will take place on November 27, 2020. The congress is again organized by Abtus Bvots, IE-net, KIVI TTOW and the COB.

>> More information at
>> 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 programme was accepted:

The tunnel programme 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 organise 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.

If you wish more information, please contact Ellen van Eijk at

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)