Friday, December 23, 2016

The Newest Twist to Stuttgart 21

There's hardly a week that goes by that you don't have another chapter to the Stuttgart-21 project.  Some are positive....most aren't very positive.

This week comes the day of reckoning....the Deutsche Bahn folks have gone into court to sue it's partners on the project ( the state of Baden-Wurttemberg, the city of Stuttgart, and the Stuttgart Airport).

For those not familiar with the project....this was the decades-long (since the 1970s) mega project that concerned the renovation/rebuild of the Stuttgart Hauptbahnhof, the addition of 57 kilometers (35 miles) of new tracks, 30 kilometers (19 miles) of new tunnels through the city of Stuttgart and 25 kilometers (16 miles) of high-speed lines in the region itself (reaching out to the airport).

Most people would agree all of these pieces and parts should have been done at some point, but delays kept occurring and by the late 1990s....it was morphing into a mega project.  The project was believed in 2010 to take approximately nine years.  Because of some problems and issues....it's now around a 13-year period to complete everything.  The original cost?  4.5 billion Euro.  Today?  It's inched up to 6.5 billion Euro, and most people expect the final bill to go past 8 billion.

The chief problem in this episode is that the mega project ended up changing the political dynamics of Stuttgart....the SPD Party, which was traditionally the number two party in the region....went into a tailspin and the Greens came on to suggest negativity with the whole project.  The Greens moved to become the dominate party in Stuttgart politics because of the negativity around the project.  So one of the key things that the Greens dumped onto this partnership of four....is that they intended to pay only their "fair" share of the cost.  This share business means that as long as the cost stays at 6.5 billion Euro....Stuttgart city will pay up to what they owe.  If the amount goes past the 6.5 billion Euro?  Stuttgart says they have no obligation to pay and it's on the back of the partners.

Naturally, the Deutsche Bahn has no desire to get stuck with the rest of this billion (potentially another billion Euro minimum) bill.  So court action is coming....one way or another.  This initial court action at the Stuttgart Administrative Court?  The Bahn folks have filed a 209-page document (yeah, this will take several weeks to read and digest).  The Bahn folks want a fair distribution situation....up to two billion extra Euro and that all the partners pay up to 65-percent of the bill.  Oddly, they hinted as part of their talk that they were open to negotiations....meaning they would take less.

Curiously, SWR reports that even the state of Baden-Wurttemberg is thinking about suing the city of Stuttgart.  Their logic is that a lot of this whole project is city-related.

The thing about all of this....is that the Stuttgart of 1965 does not match up with the Stuttgart of 2016, and the vision of Stuttgart in twenty years will be even larger.  The city itself is 598,000, but if you look at the outlying area around the city (within 20 km)....taking up the cities of Stuttgart, Heilbronn, and T├╝bingen/Reutlingen....then you add the rural villages in-between.....you've got a total population of 5,300,000 people (by 2015 standards).

They need a first-class high-speed railway system that connects to Munich and Frankfurt.  They need to bring the subway system out into new neighborhoods which have developed over the past forty years.  And they need a railway station that was capable of allowing trains to pull in and pull out....quickening the pace of passenger movement.

It'll be curious how this all plays out and who gets stuck with the final bill.  The odds of another mega railway project occurring in Germany?  I would suggest that no city will be interested in some ten-year project, and anything that occurs will have a very definite limit to construction.

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