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Germany

Controversial railway project put to a vote

A highly contested plan to revamp the railway in the city of Stuttgart will now be put to a referendum, after months of protests against the four-billion-euro project that figured heavily in the March state elections.

Demonstrators

The controversial rail project has lead to massive protests

The incoming government of the southwestern German state of Baden-Württemberg has called a referendum on a controversial rail station renovation project.

The state premier-elect, Winfried Kretschmann, said despite his Green party's opposition to the project, they would accept voters' decision on the matter. The controversial project, known as "Stuttgart 21," would turn the city's central train station from an end station to an underground transit station, linking it with a key trans-European high-speed rail corridor.

A worthless waste?

Stuttgart 21 project divided the community and prompted massive citizen protests, with thousands turning out at the start of construction to voice their opposition to the project they consider too expensive and harmful to the environment.

Police carry away a demonstrator

The Greens helped organize huge demonstrations last year

When the project was agreed in 1995, the plan was expected to cost 2.6 billion euros ($3.3 billion), to be shared by Germany's national rail operator, Deutsche Bahn, the city of Stuttgart, and the federal government.

That original cost estimate was raised several times since, with costs for the project now expected to amount to 4.1 billion euros - a sum many fear will continue to rise.

However, supporters insist the project would benefit tourists and commuters by slashing travel times to and from neighboring countries as well as to the German financial hub of Frankfurt.

In March, the issue came to a head when the state Green party capitalized on the widespread opposition and won a historic victory against the conservative Christian Democrats, who had governed the state for over half a century.

The referendum is to take place in October.

Author: Sarah Harman (dpa, AFP)
Editor: Andreas Illmer

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