It’s a very popular property in the Dutch version of Monopoly. Around the corner from the famous A-Kerkhof, our colleagues literally work at a class A site. The A, the A-kwartier and the AA-kerk church. In the city centre of Groningen, many names start with the first letter of the alphabet. In the heart of the city, KPN is moving its exchange. And, of course, any inconvenience to the customers of the telecommunications provider and the environment should be kept to a minimum. This means that our ‘movers’ have got their work cut out for them.
The times of endless corridors with rattling equipment and miles of cables are long gone. “What you used to need a complete room for now fits in one cabinet,” says design engineer Bé Sluiter. Like elsewhere in the country, KPN is saying goodbye to – superfluous space in – offices and exchanges in city centres. “Most of these removals are internal. The big difference here is that KPN is really leaving the building and moving to the opposite side of the street.”
The magic word in Groningen is ‘compaction’. Our colleagues have to replace the originally 102 ‘900 doubles’ with 187 new cables (300"). In order to make the move possible, the street had to be opened to disentangle the ‘history’. “Unravelling a tangle of cables – that took a bit of searching at first,” says Bé. It took the ground crew a day. Our colleagues ‘live’ mostly at night, because sawing and welding is only permitted between 11:59 pm and 7:00 am. One minute to twelve? “Yes, that minute is a built-in guarantee to be able to cancel the activities at the very last moment,” Bé explains. “Of course, permission has been arranged and laid down long ago, but 11:59 pm is the formal go or no-go moment. After a phone call to KPN, the sawing can begin.”
There are more guarantees. “For example, we test all the wires in advance and vital infrastructure is transferred manually. It often consists of a double connection. But you have to make sure that you don’t transfer these connections at the same time. This project required good preparation.” This applied to environmental management as well of course. “Nobody likes it when the street has to be opened up, but open information evenings help foster understanding,” Bé says. Providing input, moving forward and coming up with solutions. Our colleagues must excel at flexibility. “For example, we work around the corner from a museum and a busy supermarket where suppliers unload six to seven times a day. With dragline partitions, we ensure that their lorries can stand upright and have no problems with the tailgate.”
The most special and exceptional measure was undoubtedly on 27 April, as the Dutch royal family had chosen Groningen for the annual King’s Day festivities. Bé; “For us, that meant two security guards and covering all the fences, so that the project couldn’t be seen. That’s not an everyday experience. But all these challenges and the fact that we've experienced hardly any malfunctions so far make this a wonderful project!”