For the 500th time, a demonstration against Stuttgart 21 will take place on Monday. The issue could become important again in the mayoral election campaign.
Even ten years after the starting signal for the construction, the protest is still alive Photo: dpa
Prime Minister Winfried Kretschmann considers the conflict over Stuttgart 21 pacified eight years after the referendum on the billion-euro project. At the 500th demonstration against the rail project, opponents of the transport project want to show the opposite. Under the slogan "Away with the bottle under the stations", the action alliance calls for the 500th Monday demonstration against the controversial project. In the evening, the critics even gather in Stuttgart’s City Hall for lectures by two renowned transport experts.
Ten years after the official go-ahead for the construction of the low-level rail project, the protest against it is still alive. An information tent at the now gutted main train station has been manned by volunteers on 3,485 days since then. And hundreds of participants still come to the traditional Monday demonstrations week after week. Now for the anniversary, the action alliance expects 3,000 demonstrators.
For the opponents have been right in most of their criticisms. The rock formations under Stuttgart make tunnel construction expensive and vulnerable. The estimated costs for the "most expensive train station in the world" have risen from 4.1 billion to currently over 8 billion since construction began. The route beyond the city limits has still not been clarified.
But in the meantime, construction progress has created facts. The concrete floor has been poured, and the goblet supports that will carry the roof of the underground through station are already in place. 50 of the planned 59 kilometers of tunnel have now been bored. Even though the action alliance still clings to its concept that preserves the overground terminus station, the underground station is expected to be connected to the rail network in 2025. Even critics of the first hour, such as the current mayor of Tubingen Boris Palmer, now consider this irreversible.
Main criticism remains: too little capacity
The main criticism of the underground station remains, however, and was fueled by a remark made by Green Party Transportation Minister Winfried Hermann in the summer: the scarce traffic capacities due to the reduced number of tracks. 8 instead of the previous 16 tracks are to be at the new station. Too few, especially if Deutsche Bahn actually wants to double its train capacities as announced. At the latest then, according to critics, the Stuttgart station would be a bottleneck that would create problems.
As a compromise solution, critics envision an additional terminus station for local traffic, equipped with at least four tracks. If this were to be above ground, the model for it could be New York Central Station. Talks with the railroads about this capacity issue are apparently underway in the background, while the outgoing mayor of Stuttgart, Fritz Kuhn, has no interest in the rescheduling because he would rather start planning the newly won district in the middle of Stuttgart’s city center today than tomorrow. This is why Stuttgart 21 could also play a role in the looming mayoral election campaign.
Thus, the construction project remains a sensitive issue for Green government politicians. Transport Minister Winfried Hermann, who told the Sudwest-Presse in the summer that "Stuttgart 21 is the biggest mistake in the history of the railroads, we are spending a lot of money and sinking a train station and have no advantage as a result," has for the time being reverted to the language that the planned capacities are sufficient. An expert of its house had to cancel its appearance on Monday with the action alliance.
Minister President Winfried Kretschmann has made his peace with the project. Recently, he even allowed himself to be guided around the construction site for the first time together with Deutsche Bahn representative Ronald Pofalla and admired the "impressive work of the engineers."