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Railroad ruckus

July 9, 2011

Several thousand protesters have turned out in Stuttgart to express their opposition to disputed and costly plans to completely overhaul the city's main railway station.

Protesters in Stuttgart on Saturday
Protesters demanded a 'construction stop forever'Image: picture-alliance/dpa

Protesters opposed to the controversial Stuttgart 21 rail project turned out at Stuttgart's main train station in full force Saturday, with organizers estimating that around 15,000 protesters showed up to demand a "construction stop forever."

Police put the figure at about 7,000, and added that there were no incidents of violence as there had been in the past.

Opponents of the multibillion-euro plan to move Stuttgart's central train station underground and create a high-speed regional rail link said the risk of cost overruns could not be calculated and that delays in viability tests showed the renovation project was just too massive to accurately assess.

Costing an estimated 4.1 billion euros ($5.8 billion), the Stuttgart 21 development plan calls for moving the city's main railway station underground and rotating the direction of the tracks by 90 degrees to create a trans-European, high-speed rail link.

Protesters at the Stuttgart train station with anti-Stuttgart 21 signs
Opponents of the project view the stress tests as a farceImage: picture-alliance/dpa

The spokeswoman for opponents of the project, Brigitte Dahlbender, said there was no pressure to hurry things up, unless Deutsche Bahn (DB), the German rail operator in charge of the project, decided to do so.

Stress test delayed

DB has been pushing hard for a debate on the plans in order to award initial contracts totaling 750 million euros for tunneling work.

Results of a simulation assessing whether the new station would be able to handle a planned 30 percent increase in rail traffic by 2020 are due out on July 14. But the Swiss engineering firm tasked with auditing the simulation tests has said it will not be submitting its report until July 21, at the earliest.

If the contracts are not awarded by the end of this month, they will be tendered again on a Europe-wide basis, delaying building work by a further 18 months.

The Stuttgart 21 project was the key factor that led to Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats losing control of the state of Baden-Württemberg for the first time in 50 years in regional elections in March.

Author: Gregg Benzow (dpa, AFP, Reuters)
Editor: Martin Kuebler