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Stuttgart 21 gets the green light

04 Sep 2007

Stuttgart 21 gets the green light Construction of an underground through station in Stuttgart connecting with a new high speed line to Ulm is to go ahead, reports Ralf Roman Rossberg

ON JULY 19 the points were set to launch the largest railway construction project in southwest Germany for many years, with the announcement in Berlin that the Stuttgart 21 project can go ahead.

This followed the signing of a Memoran-dum of Understanding between Federal Transport Minister Wolfgang Tienfensee, the Prime Minister of Baden-Württemberg Günther Oettinger, Stuttgart mayor Wolf-gang Schuster and DB Chairman Hartmut Mehdorn over the financing package.

As well as the construction of the underground through station to replace Stuttgart's existing terminus, the work will include a new line towards Ulm, which will pass close to Stuttgart Airport and the trade fair. Total cost is put at around €4·8bn, of which €2·8bn is attributable to Stuttgart 21.

'With today's decision, we have achieved a breakthrough for two of the railway's most important infrastructure projects', said Mehdorn after signing the MoU. Tiefensee said that Stuttgart 21 and the Stuttgart – Ulm Neubaustrecke would close a further gap on the TEN corridor between Paris and Bratislava. The agreement was reached just one day before the expiry of the window for submitting applications for financial support from the European Union.

Stuttgart 21 was first announced on April 18 1994 by the then DB Chairman Heinz Dürr (RG 6.94 p348). Building a low-level through station at right angles to the present terminus would eliminate reversals for all trains, and free up for redevelopment around 40% of the land area in the city centre now occupied by railway facilities.

The rebuilt station will be connected with the Neubaustrecken heading west to Mannheim and east to Ulm, offering substantial time savings for both long-distance and regional services. At the airport there will be a new station for main line services and a connecting curve to the existing S-Bahn station so that trains to Singen and Zürich can be re-routed via the airport and a new connection at Rohr.

As is usual with such large-scale projects, the vision immediately attracted strong opposition. At first there were doubts about building within the watershed of the Bad Cannstatter mineral springs, but sample drillings subsequently proved that there should be no adverse impacts. Objections were raised that eight through tracks would not provide enough capacity compared to the 16 platforms in the terminus.

More illusory however, was the suggestion that the project could be self-financed through the sale of land for redevelopment. At the end of 2001 the city paid €460m for the land, but the railway's contribution to Stuttgart 21 is now put at €1·1bn. Baden-Württemberg will contribute €700m and the federal government €500m, leaving around €500m to be funded by the EU.

There has also been criticism that Baden-Württemberg is paying as much as €950m towards the Stuttgart – Ulm Neubaustrecke, for which the government should be responsible. Oettinger said this would enable construction to start in 2010, whereas waiting for federal funding could have delayed the project by a further six years.

Although most planning approvals have now been granted, work is still not expected to start for a further three years. Under the current timetable, the first tra ins will start to roll through the new station in 2019.