Stuttgart 21: An unending tale receives a new chapter

Stuttgart Hauptbahnhof Tiefbahnhofbaustelle

The contentious Stuttgart 21 rail project had an initial estimated completion date of 2019 and a budget of three billion euros. The long shot missed both objectives. The expenses are still going up, and it’s unlikely that the rail hub will be operational in 2025 either.

The completion of the building site, which is intended to subterranean Stuttgart Central Station, has repeatedly been delayed. As of the now, Stuttgart 21 won’t start operating until at least December 2026. This implies a further year’s delay for Germany’s most contentious train project. The train hub was really scheduled to open in 2025, but that has been delayed multiple times. This information was obtained by “Spiegel” from many rail group project participants.

There is no Stuttgart 21 provisional commissioning.

Deutsche Bahn had previously stated in March that commissioning was still scheduled “for December 2025”. But even then, it was already understood that the precise commissioning order was still up in the air. As a result, the business suggested building a temporary signal box and gradually opening the new tunnel station. The previous terminal station would have continued to be used for train traffic under this proposal.

We no longer intend to proceed with the plans for a provisional commissioning. The concept was shelved due to issues with planning and implementation, as well as the exorbitant price of a temporary signal box that would have required several hundred million euros. This would have added to the already high expense of the significant project.

Stuttgart 21: Over ten years of significant building

Stuttgart residents have had to live with a sizable building site in the middle of their city for more than a decade. Stuttgart 21, the railway’s new subterranean station, is being constructed at the main station. This project includes the entire reorganization of the Stuttgart rail hub in addition to the construction of the new main station.

New train stations, including a long-distance station near the airport, as well as dozens of kilometers of railway lines, tunnels, culverts, and bridges are all part of the construction project. Stuttgart 21 is just one part of the Stuttgart-Ulm project; another is the building of the Wendlingen-Ulm high-speed line, scheduled to open in 2022. The new underground main station, which replaces the old terminus station and is intended to be a through station, is the focal point of Stuttgart 21.

The significance of Stuttgart 21’s “21”

A spokesperson for the railway cleared up a popular misconception: Stuttgart 21’s “21” never denoted a year of completion. The number really alludes to the 21st century. Several initiatives were started in the 1990s under the “Bahnhof 21” banner to update Germany’s train hubs for the twenty-first century. Projects like “Neu-Ulm 21,” “Saarbrücken 21,” and “Lindau 21” are among them.

2019 was the projected year of inauguration when Stuttgart 21’s finance agreement was finalized in 2009. However, the commissioning date has been pushed back multiple times since then.

Causes of the frequent delays

The railroad company provides multiple explanations for the recurrent postponements to Stuttgart 21. These include of suits filed against the project and modifications made to specifications, especially those pertaining to fire safety. The Stuttgart urban area’s geologically difficult subsoil and the intricate approval processes brought about by modifications to species protection legislation are further factors.

The railway is accused by critics of concealing the expenses and construction time while being aware of the hazards and concerns from the start.

What is the project cost and who will pay for the extra expenses?

The railway operator has budgeted an additional 500 million euros for a buffer, bringing the total estimated current expenses for Stuttgart 21 to over eleven billion euros. There have been some notable cost hikes in recent years. The allocation of expenses was governed by the 2009 funding agreement up to a maximum of little more than 4.5 billion euros. At that time, the Stuttgart Region Association gave 100 million euros, the airport contributed 227 million, the city of Stuttgart contributed 292 million, and the state of Baden-Württemberg pledged to give 931 million euros.

The extra expenses are not, however, required of the partners. According to a court decision, the railway must pay the billions of extra expenses on its own. The complaints filed by multiple railway firms against the state of Baden-Württemberg, the city of Stuttgart, the Stuttgart Region Association, and Stuttgart Airport were dismissed by the Stuttgart Administrative Court at the beginning of May. The railway sought to make sure that the extra expenses were covered by the project partners. Following the judgment, a representative for the railways clarified that the written rationale would be thoroughly reviewed before a determination was made regarding potential legal actions.

Stuttgart 21’s effects on traffic and travel times

In certain circumstances, the Stuttgart 21 initiative will result in significant travel time savings. Passengers will now only require 27 minutes instead of 56 minutes to get from Ulm to Stuttgart, according to Deutsche Bahn. But rather than Stuttgart 21, the new line between Wendlingen and Ulm is responsible for around half of this time savings. The airport’s link to long-distance travel expedites travelers’ travel time. Furthermore, Stuttgart’s recently opened through station allows for direct links in regional traffic. The former terminal station only had five arriving and outgoing tracks; the new station has eight. It should be able to accommodate a lot more train traffic now and in the future.

Opponents contest these benefits. The proposed station, according to Martin Poguntke, spokesman for the action coalition against Stuttgart 21, is too small and will seriously harm traffic in the state and the surrounding area. The railway is accused by the project’s opponents of using erroneous assumptions to calculate the performance. The goal of the stress test was to validate the new station’s performance by assuming extremely brief stopping intervals. According to Poguntke, these stopping times are unfeasible during rush hour: “A train swiftly empties at three in the afternoon. However, it is impossible to meet these stopping times during rush hour.” (Using content from the DPA)

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