Stuttgart’s White Elephant
Germany Spends Billions on the Wrong Rail Project
By Christian Wüst
There are hundreds of little reasons to be opposed to theMost of them are trees, which will be cut down as part of the work. Angry locals are now sitting on the branches of those trees in the city’s Schlossgarten Park to protest against the chainsaws of power. And the massive demonstration against the plans, which involve moving Stuttgart’s main railway station underground and turning it from a terminus into a through station, is starting to look more and more like an open-air festival.
There is also a big, truly compelling argument against Stuttgart 21, one that concerns all Germans and not just those living in Stuttgart: money. Or, more precisely, the extremely large amount of money that will be sunk into the project.
Current estimates put the costs of building the subterranean railway station in Stuttgart, the capital of the southwestern German state of Baden-Württemberg, at €4.1 billion ($5.38 billion). An associated high-speed rail line to Ulm, a city lying about 90 kilometers (56 miles) southeast of Stuttgart, is slated to cost another €3 billion.
Stuttgart 21 is one of the most expensive transportation infrastructure projects in Germany today — and by far the most controversial.
To address the arguments of the project’s critics, the people behind it have now launched an ad campaign that fires back with supposedly better arguments. When it comes to the trees, this is relatively easy: While 282 old trees will be cut down, it points out, the city plans to replace them with 293 new trees.
But when it comes to the issue of money, the case for Stuttgart 21 isn’t as easy to make. “It’s true that ‘Stuttgart 21’ is expensive,” the campaign posters read. But, as they go on to explain, the funding also includes “billions from (Germany’s national railway operator) Deutsche Bahn, the federal government, the state government and the European Union.”