Stuttgart’s controversial rail project to take another year and cost €12bn

The construction site for the underground station, seen in April 2022 (Pjt56/CC BY-SA 4.0)
A controversial project to reorganise the rail network around Stuttgart has been delayed by more than a year, reports Der Spiegel.

The Stuttgart 21 scheme involves building a main underground train station and an urban bypass.

First presented in 1994, the project has been live since February 2010, and is now about seven years behind schedule.

The cost has risen from an initial estimate of €2.6bn to as much as €11bn.

A further rise to €12bn is expected, and the new system will not enter service until December 2026 at the earliest, a source at Deutsche Bahn (DB) told the magazine.

A map of the reconfigured rail system in the Stuttgart city–region (K. Jähne/Public domain)

The plan is to reconfigure the city’s high-speed lines and replace the Hauptbahnhof, the city’s main rail station, with an underground facility.

This will involve laying 57km of conventional track and 25km of high-speed lines, around 30km of which will be underground.

According to DB, the result will be a halving of travel times between Stuttgart and the nearby city of Ulm (see further reading).

Spiegel notes that even if the project is completed by the revised date, it is unclear how the new station can be connected from the south as there is no money to build the planned “Pfaffensteig” tunnel.

An illegal police action in 2010 left hundreds of protestors injured (Mussklprozz/CC BY-SA 3.0)

As well as a dramatic rise in costs, much of it due to inflation, the project has been the subject of one of the largest civil disobedience campaigns in recent German history.

Altogether, some 700 demonstrations have been held against the scheme, protesting against the demolition of the existing station and a perceived lack of democratic voice and public consultation.

In one demonstration, held in the city’s Schlossgarten (castle gardens) in September 2010, a violent police action injured more than 300 peaceful demonstrators and led to an investigation by the Baden-Württemberg parliament.

A number of citizen groups put forward alternative proposals for reordering the city’s infrastructure, and campaigned to have them incorporated into DB’s plans. 

In May, a court in Stuttgart rejected a claim by DB that the city of Stuttgart and the state of Baden-Württemberg should pay some of the additional costs.

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