Germany

Six Years after Construction Start – Foundation Stone laid for Stuttgart 21 Underground Station

Classical music sounded from the loudspeakers down into the site, but could not drown out the chorus and whistling of the demonstrators in the background: scraps of speech were still audible. “Bunch of liars” shouted the demonstrators and “stay up here”. It was a bit like it always is on the megaproject Stuttgart 21: Official occasions sometimes become political issues. The occasion on 16 September 2016 was the laying of the foundation stone of the new underground station – the core of Stuttgart 21.

The building of the underground station has been known for 20 years; in November 1997, the architectural practice Ingenhoven, Overdiek, Kahlen und Partner (today ingenhoven architects, Düsseldorf) won the “Implementation competition for Stuttgart main station”, and now action has finally been taken with the laying of the foundation stone. It could have been a unclouded occassion to celebrate, if not for the continuing dispute about the cost. The Bundesrechnungshof (German federal court of auditors) warned of higher expenses shortly before the event; total costs of 10 billion euros could be possible. The chairman of the Deutsche Bahn AG, Dr. Rüdiger Grube, reacted sourly to this: “What amazes me about the Rechnungshof is that even after repeated enquiries, I myself have not been given any data. The Bundesrechnungshof has never been on site and has never talked to us about figures.” (See also the folowing article "Deutsche Bahn disputes alleged extra Costs in Bundesrechnungshof Report")

 

Deutsche Bahn is holding to the Cost Framework and Completion by 2021

German Railways DB still assures that the cost framework of 6,526 billion euros will be maintained. And the schedule for the completion of the rail node in 2021 should also be kept, although – according to DB information – the project has a delay of two years.

Despite all the headwinds, the numerous speakers at the event remained optimistic. “I have been looking forward to this day for seven years,” said DB head Grube. “It is a really large construction site for a future large station.” And he underlined: “The project is irreversible.” Millions of passengers would profit from shorter journey times, new direct connections and improved services – and the entire city gains 100 hectares of city development area right in the centre, said the DB head in his speech. Grube does not apparently have any fundamental worries about the future of the project. He spoke confidently to the present guests: “I am proud of the project and remain proud and in 2021 will make the first journey with you from Stuttgart to Ulm.”

 

The new Station

The new through station is turned by almost 90 degrees compared to the current station, and the tracks run about 12 m below the current rail level. The historic Bonatz buildings, the main building, the tower and the large ticket hall, will remain. Large circular “light eyes” should create a pleasant bright atmosphere in the new underground station hall, with the light eyes integrated into the design of the square above.

There are high requirements for fire protection, which keep the project parties on their toes. The station itself is categorised as a tunnel construction, which makes the fire protection requirements correspondingly more stringent. Architect Werner Sobek, who looks after the project as a partner of Ingenhoven, speaks in this connection of “unrealistic conditions”, which according to Sobek can only be explained because the responsible parties on the project have to comply with the legal regulations in order not to become liable.

For the reorganisation of the station in Stuttgart, two further stations and a stabling station will be built in addition to the main station. According to DB, a third of the altogether 59 km of tunnels has been driven so far (see report in tunnel issue 6/2016). Breakthroughs at the tunnel heads at the south and north portal of the future through station are expected around New Year 2016/2017.

DB had good news to announce about the new line from Wendlingen to Ulm, where the costs and schedule are within forecast; there could even be a saving on the planned costs of 3.26 billion euros.

Rüdiger Sinn, freelance journalist, Deggenhausertal, Germany

Deutsche Bahn disputes alleged extra Costs in Bundesrechnungshof Report

In a publication of 21 September 2016, the Deutsche Bahn (DB) expresses “great irritation” that a report from the Bundesrechnungshof (the German federal court of auditors) about alleged extra costs on the Stuttgart 21 project is available to numerous media, although the Bundesrechnungshof had sent it to the responsible federal finance committee of the German Bundestag as classified information due to “business data in need of protection”. DB stated it still had no knowledge of this report, despite having asked the Bundesrechnungshof for it some time ago.

DB emphasises that a current extensive stock taking of Stuttgart 21 has shown that the project itself is within the approved finance framework of 6,526 billion euros, even if all newly identified risks should arise. The supervisory board of the Deutschen Bahn AG has also commissioned an external report in order to investigate the schedule and cost planning situation on Stuttgart 21 in more depth. This was the purpose of an exceptional meeting of the supervisory board on 13 October.

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