Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Ten Simplistic Facts of Stuttgart 21

Most Germans have some basic (3x5 card knowledge) understanding of Stuttgart 21.  A handful of Americans and Brits have even slightly less knowledge, so I'll lay this out about this public works project.

1.  Stuttgart 21 is the infrastructure project to renovate inner-city Stuttgart and it's public transportation sector (Bahn, subway, and trolley-car).  Stuttgart had a decent (not mega-sized like Frankfurt) Hauptbahnhof in the middle of the city.....where you pulled in, and backed out (instead of the Mainz or Berlin style where you pull in and pull out).  This limiting factor was already noted in the 1950s, and for fifty years....Stuttgart residents, politicians and experts argued about how to upgrade and fix what was a growing problem with the public transportation.

2.  The old Stuttgart Hauptbahnhof (train-station) was built in 1922.  It had seventeen platforms, and had an old-style look to it.  The original station in the city was built in 1846 and lasted twenty years before they realized it was not big enough to handle traffic....so an addition was added.  This lasted till after WW I where another station was erected.  To go forward with the plan.....the two wings of the old station were to be torn down, and the bulk of future operations would all be underground.  Needless to say.....opposition went against this.  The chief argument?  You shouldn't change the structural appearance of the building.....thus allowing the two wings to remain.  I know....it's a fairly weak argument but that's how stupid this anti-Stuttgart 21 episode has gone.

3.  Population-wise, Stuttgart has kinda peaked out in the past twenty years at 600,000.  Now, that doesn't mean that the region hasn't peaked out.  What the experts tend to say is that people have started a trend back in the 1980s.....to move to outer neighborhoods and cities/towns outside of Stuttgart.  Naturally, this means traffic jams for these people to get within the city limits.  If you forecast out thirty years.....the city needs massive public transportation to improve the needs of the public.  Within the state of B-W, the population is about 10.5 million.  Probably half of that population (10.5 million) live within 50 kilometers of the city.  So, you have little choice but to support some program to fix the infrastructure.

4.  One of the chief arguments by the anarchists/Greens is that private individuals got on the inside of the planning process, and bought property where new subway lines were to be developed.  It's probably true.  But HOW would you have prevented this, or prevented property speculation from occurring?  I hear this point made on a constant basis, yet no one can suggest any method to prevent speculation on property.  The chief scenario for the speculator?  You have a neighborhood currently with no subway connection.  You learn of a developed line to go from A to B, with six stops along this line.....then you go out and buy ten properties within walking distance and wait ten years....for the property to double or triple in value when the stations are put into operation.

5.  The Stuttgart 21 plan is about modernizing the lines leading for the long-haul trains coming into the city, and add some subway lines within Stuttgart itself. One of the chief points of this project is that it will tie Stuttgart into a Paris-to-Vienna project for passenger service.  Speed along this line will be 200-to-250 kph (real high speed).  The end result, at least by the opinions of some people....is that it (the project) will remake  Stuttgart into a major business city....maybe surpassing Frankfurt.  Some will say that industry-wise, it's already at the top of German cities.  If you look at revenue generation....B-W and Bavaria are the two states of Germany making money.  The thing is.....they'd like to expand upon that.

6.  The cost factor.  In 2007, when they finally sat down and wrote up the project and initial costs....it was developed this way: Berlin-Fed Gov't:  500 million Euro, B-W state gov't: 685 million Euro, and the Bahn (owned by the federal gov't) 1.1 billion Euro.  Somewhere in the money business.....there's another 1.1-odd billion Euro for the Stuttgart to Ulm railway track and modernization.  It's never clear about who is paying for this, but it seems to be a three-way plan.  What bothers most (in opposition) is the continual trend for mega-projects to fail (the BER for example), and added cost accumulate.  In March of 2013, the cost had risen to 6.5 billion Euro total.  With the 2013 updates thrown into the system.....the end-date for completion was figured to be 2022 (three years behind the original date).  There's little said about the current status and I would make a guess that the end-date is probably summer of 2024 at the earliest now.  Who pays for the overage? The new B-W government with the Greens arranging for a coalition government wants a limit on the state's cost.....forcing the overage to come from the Fed government in Berlin and the Bahn.  I would take a guess that the total cost will exceed 10 billion and might even go to 12 billion Euro.

7.  In the past month, species protection has been brought up, and seems to involve around 10,000 lizards in the local area and how they'd be relocated.  Delaying the project?  Yes.  Adding tens of thousands of Euro per day?  Yes.  Possibly adding another 500 million Euro onto the project?  Yes.

8.  Most people in the city of Stuttgart.....probably around 60-percent.....favor the plan.  Most (probably over 80-percent) have zero confidence that it'll be completed on-time or on-budget.  Some think it might well go over 20-billion Euro, and might be 2030 before it's completely done.  Presently, the Green Party (because of the 2011 election, and the success of the recent 2016 election.....lead the city and the state on politics).  In the opinion of most.....they are the ones who will get dumped on, but the budget or delays become an embarrassment to the state.  The Greens will argue about this and claim no responsibility and that they tried to kill the project.  On my own personal scale of badly run projects.....which BER (the Berlin Airport) is the single worst run mega project in German history.....I believe that Stuttgart 21 will exceed BER and by 2020 be declared a major fiasco with some political figures forced to resign from the city and regional governments.

9.  Prior to Stuttgart 21, the only way to get to the Stuttgart Airport or the fairgrounds of the city....was by regional or city S-Bahn.  When this is complete.....long-distance trains will pull into both.  The talk.....if you really dig down into this is that they anticipate more people using the Stuttgart Airport because they can ride the high speed railway (meaning people from Karlsruhe and Strasburg could spend an hour on the train, exit, and then fly out of a major airport).  Presently (2015 numbers) they have 10.5 million passengers per year.  With the high speed line?  No one makes predictions but I'd take a guess that they could go easily to 15 million passengers.  The US slant on this?  Well.....they only have the Stuttgart to Atlanta flight for daily runs to the US, and the rest are around Europe or to Abu Dhabi.  It should be noted that the chief destination presently from the airport is.....Berlin (one million passengers a year).   On the topic of the fairgrounds?  There's some suggestion that more business or fests could be added to the schedule and the railway would pay off big-time.

10.  There are two basic views of the project.  One: It'll fix fifty years of poor planning and limited options.....bringing more business, more visitors, and more profit into the state of B-W and the city of Stuttgart.  Two: It's an evil project, with capitalist woes, loaded with cost over-runs, destroying the sacred appearance of the 1922 Hauptbahnhof, and killing thousands of lizards (which no one knew much about prior to this apparently).

For an American looking for a fractured process of city planning, massive over-runs, and a large segment of the affected population who knew little to nothing about a project affecting them.....it's a great episode to view.

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