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Germany

Mediator: Stuttgart railway project should go ahead

After nine rounds of talks with supporters and opponents of a planned underground railway station in Stuttgart, mediator Heiner Geissler came out in favor of the project, but demanded concessions.

Demonstrators in front of Stuttgart station

Thousands protested the demolition of the old Stuttgart station

The controversial project to build an underground railway station in the southwestern German city of Stuttgart - dubbed Suttgart 21 - has been given the thumbs-up by mediator Heiner Geissler.

Geissler, who is a former secretary-general of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats, said the project should continue, but that Germany's railway company, Deutsche Bahn, should agree to "decisive changes."

"The project to build Stuttgart 21 will most probably go ahead," he said at a Stuttgart news conference on Tuesday.

He pointed out that Stuttgart 21 already has planning permission, unlike the plans for modernization of the existing station, favored by critics of the underground railway. Abandoning the project would also be too expensive, Geissler argued.

Heiner Geissler

Geissler led nine rounds of mediation talks

Controversial project

Stuttgart 21 divided the community in Stuttgart, with thousands of supporters and opponents taking to the streets before the mediation talks started.

Opponents claim the project to make Stuttgart part of a high-speed rail route across Europe is too expensive and that its construction will damage the environment.

Supporters say that the connection will eventually bring more money to Stuttgart. They say that although around 290 trees will need to be chopped down in the building process, this can be offset with the planting of even more trees when construction is completed.

Geissler recommended that the areas above the planned underground station be shielded from property speculators by setting up a foundation to handle their redevelopment.

He also asked Deutsche Bahn to improve the security aspects of the project.

Stefan Mappus, the premier of the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, where Stuttgart is located, welcomed the recommendations.

"We want to face up to this stress test, because we think it's only fair that we openly discuss what the strengths and weaknesses of this project are, and to get rid of the weaknesses," he said on Tuesday.

Author: Nicole Goebel (dpa, Reuters)
Editor: Chuck Penfold

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