Local Heart, Global Soul

February 21, 2011

Intersect a Large Canal with a Motorway and you Need …?

Filed under: Miscellaneous,THE NETHERLANDS,Traditional — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

I’m still stuck at home recovering from my foot misadventures, so soon I’ll take you on a little trip that we did last year with the kids.

But first, a little something that is a great solution for a big problem.

The Netherlands is a country largely beneath sea-level.

Inland, water is drained from the land via canals, and pumped  via a large network of canals eventually into the big rivers of the Rhine, Maas,  Waal, and Ijssel.

Nearer the coast, canals have gates that are closed at high tide and water is pumped every low tide into the sea.  This happened for centuries  with the aid of the windmills that The Netherlands is famous for: these days pumping stations are computerised and operate 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year.

Water management in The Netherlands is a serious issue, since the natural water-table is meters above the land level in large parts of the country. Dikes keep the water in the canals, but often the surrounding land may or may not be at the same elevation that the dikes and canals are.

So, naturally this network of canals also throws up a few unique transportation problems. Roads are not elevated to the same level as the waterways, so how do you deal with the spots where roads and waterways meet?

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

On smaller canals, road bridges can be raised to allow boat traffic through, this involves stopping the road traffic for a short time whilst the bridge is raised.

The biggest rivers are spanned by very high bridges that allow shipping  to pass underneath, but these bridges are very expensive therefore these large bridges are spaced apart, and smaller car ferries take traffic from shore to shore to smaller towns and villages in-between.

Holding up car traffic on smaller roads is part and parcel of commuting around the Netherlands, it even happens inside cities… and it’s an accepted part of life. However, motorways are  different beasts…  it’s not feasible to hold up very large volumes of traffic for a bridge to be raised. so where they connect with the biggest canals special solutions have to be found.

We have plenty of road tunnels that go under the canals, but they too are very expensive and usually reserved for high traffic area by the widest  rivers so the next best option is the aqueduct.

The road traffic takes a short dip beneath the canal, the  metal and concrete sides of which are on view from the road. Often as you approach you may see tall masts  of yachts as they cross the road.  Murphy’s Law of course states that no yachts were crossing when I grabbed these photos.

This aqueduct is just outside the city of Gouda… ( Yes, the place famous for it’s cheese),  and whilst for the purposes of this post I am taking you on a journey away from the Hague, we happened  to be  driving up the backside of a caravan (no, not literally!) on the way out so the view was obstructed.

This is the better view that I snapped on the way home.


  1. So interesting. I remember from my childhood a story in which one girl saved the whole village, because she blocked with her hand water leakage. Sorry if it was not correct, but it went somehow like that, I think.

    Comment by sartenada — February 22, 2011 @ 7:21 am | Reply

    • That’s the folklore about the little boy who put his finger in the dyke to stop the water breaking through… sadly it’s not actually true but it’s famous all the same 🙂

      Comment by kiwidutch — February 24, 2011 @ 2:35 pm | Reply

  2. I’ve only seen the ‘water bridge’ phenomena in Florida on Disney property and it is AMAZING to witness a boat casually travelling overhead as you pass in a vehicle below! There are three of these on Disney property – ingenious if you ask me!

    Can you just imagine the conversation the first time someone suggested such a thing?? I’m sure it got a lot of raised eyebrows! 🙂

    Comment by milkayphoto — February 22, 2011 @ 1:42 pm | Reply

    • I’m sure that many were convinced it would never work at first… Luckily it works very well indeed, since they solve a LOT of problems for the Netherlands, with all the waterways here.
      Imagine how many extra (really big) bridges we would have to make otherwise?

      Comment by kiwidutch — February 24, 2011 @ 3:01 pm | Reply

  3. It’s like the intersect an Airport runway with a highway in Singapore. These infrastructures are amazing.

    Comment by rsmacaalay — February 23, 2011 @ 5:58 am | Reply

    • S’pore’s Changi airport is amazing on many levels, the multi terminals, fountains, monorails, the road at the end of the runway… my favourite airport 🙂

      Comment by kiwidutch — February 24, 2011 @ 6:18 pm | Reply

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