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Stuttgart 21 gets referendum go-ahead

by DoDo Mon Nov 28th, 2011 at 07:29:58 AM EST

Stuttgart 21 is a rail project to replace the surface terminus of Stuttgart, the capital of Baden-Württemberg state in Germany, with an underground through station. The controversy over its costs and usefulness, and its real estate, environmental and historical building preservation aspects, peaked in mass protests that met excessive police force, and contributed to the election of Germany's first Greens-led regional government earlier this year.

To settle the subsequent tussle over the future of the project, the state of Baden-Württemberg held a referendum yesterday (Sunday, 27 November). At a turnout of 48.3%, a majority of 58.8% rejected the state's withdrawal of its financial contribution (which would have effectively killed the project). Even in Stuttgart itself, Stuttgart 21 supporters had a majority of 52.9%. Prime minister Winfried Kretschman said his government accepts the people's decision, but the state won't contribute to the financing of further cost overruns and will continue to ensure the right of protest.

Below the fold, some background, and for a wider context, some other news on transport policy in Germany, which don't point in a good direction.

For a summary of the opponent's arguments, see Stuttgart 21 - Part I and Stuttgart 21 - Part II - Consequences Beyond Stuttgart by epochepoque. For full disclosure, my own view was that Stuttgart 21 is essentially a real estate project (using the space freed up by the old station and the connecting tracks) and sub-optimal for rail in its attempt to put long-distance and local passenger rail on the same rails.

Between the election of the Greens-SPD government and the referendum, the focus of the debate were the following subjects:

  • The capacity of the old and the planned new station: for the new station, a so-called "stress test" was prepared, then another, and the Baden-Württemberg's regional passenger transport authority commissioned a study, too. All of these cleared the planned new station, though the last one showed that the old station has higher capacity.
  • The costs of quitting the project, now that it's on-going: the opposed sides commissioned studies that gave wildly different numbers (see Rail News Blogging #2).
  • On-going works and awarding: seen by opponents as creating facts, defended as the respecting of existing contracts and the avoidance of cost overruns by proponents.
  • A compromise solution combining part of the existing station with a scaled-down underground station (the solution I advocated earlier, too): this one was proposed by the man tasked with a reconciliation effort, Heiner Geißler (a CDU leader in the Kohl era and present prominent member of ATTAC), but was quickly rejected by both sides.

During the height of the mass protests, polls showed a majority against Stuttgart 21, but opposition dwindled ever since. As for the reasons, I can only speculate: the opponents' rejection of the successive stress tests was probably seen as unreasonable, and the SPD's strong support for the project (to the extent of playing opposition within the government) may have had an effect on its voters.

:: :: :: :: ::

Meanwhile, some other recent news (all of which connect to subjects covered in Corridors for freight) show that transport policy in Germany does not move in a pro-rail direction.

Item 1: In the federal budget proposal for 2012, the sum earmarked for the continued quadruple-tracking of the Karlsruhe–Basel line (also in Baden-Württemberg state) was cut from €48.4 to €19 million (following the putting-on-a-backburner of the Hamburg–Hanover–Bremen "Y" and Frankfurt–Mannheim high-speed lines and an express rapid transit network for the Ruhr area, see comment by epochepoque). The original sum was already not enough for more than design work, so delays (and consequent cost increases) mount for this important megaproject, too.

Item 2: It's not like the overall budget for traffic infrastructure was a victim of budget cuts: in the last revision, the planned deficit increased (yes, federal finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble doesn't practise what he preaches to the rest of the Eurozone) partly because an extra billion for traffic infrastructure.

What is that sum for? Maybe some of it is for rail? In an interview with Rheinishe Post, federal transport minister Peter Ramsauer (CSU) disabuses us of such illusions:

Diese Milliarde Euro ist der erste Schritt auf meinem Weg hin zu einer nachhaltigen Finanzierung der Straße. Bis die Maut kassenwirksam wird, geht es darum, die Straßenbau-Finanzierung aufzupolstern.This one billion Euro is the first step on my path towards a sustainable financing of roads. Until the [minister's proposed passenger car] toll [on highways] does not yet have a cash effect, the goal is to bolster road construction funding.

Item 3: Ramsauer is also moving ahead with the approval process of super-long 44-ton trailer trucks (so-called gigaliners), "trials" are to start in seven states of Germany for the next five years. CER, the lobby group of European train and rail infrastructure operators, commissioned a study to see what the effect of an EU-wide rollout of the 44-ton trucks would be on their business, which came to the result that rail would lose up to 38% of its wagonload traffic and 13% of its combined transport traffic.

Item 4: I recently observed that NIMBY protests against rail, previously focused on megaprojects involving new construction and primarily high-speed lines, spread to the simplest enhancements which would result in increased freight traffic on existing lines. Now there is another such initiative:

Bürgerinitiative: Unterschriften gegen Ausbau Löhne - Hildesheim- Nachrichten bei EurailpressCitizen initiative: Petition against Löhne–Hildesheim upgrade - News at Eurailpress
Gegen den Ausbau der Bahnstrecke Löhne - Hildesheim durch das Weserbergland für den Güterverkehr hat eine Bürgerinitiative 7000 Unterschriften gesammelt.A citizen initiative collected 7000 signatures against the upgrade of the Löhne–Hildesheim railway across the Weserbergland region [south-west of Hanover] for freight transport.
Sie sollen dem Bundestag übergeben werden.The signatures are to be handed over to the federal parliament.

I am struggling to find understanding for such protests. The passing of a freight train is a rattle for two minutes, but, unlike highway noise, it's then over. Is a train ever half an hour instead of every two hours crossing the limit of intolerable?

OTOH the spread of such protests should spur on efforts to reduce freight train noise, if only wouldn't it be so difficult from an economic viewpoint. Freight trains would be much less noisy if wagons would run on running gear similar to that of passenger trains. However, such running gear is expensive in itself and needs high-frequency condition monitoring/maintenance, so freight wagons need something robust instead, or else "silenced" railfreight will become very expensive and even less competitive against road. There are projects in that direction, but a widespread retrofitting of wagons in Europe is nowhere near.

As a final side-note, the alternative for the above protesters:

Die Anlieger wollen, dass stattdessen die Hauptstrecke Hannover - Minden - Löhne ausgebaut wird. Diese Variante unterstützt auch die Deutsche Bahn.The residents want that, instead, the upgrade of the Hanover–Minden–Löhne mainline. This version is also supported by German Railways.

That may be a way to create the additional capacity, however, that choice would be the continuation of another bad policy in recent decades: secondary lines are no more maintained as diversion routes for mainlines in case of emergency.

:: :: :: :: ::

Check the Train Blogging index page for a (hopefully) complete list of ET diaries and stories related to railways and trains.

Interestingly, the only districts with majorities against Stuttgart 21 were in the west of the state – sign of distance, or sign that the merger of Baden and Württenberg into one state half a century ago is still only on the surface?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Nov 28th, 2011 at 05:01:13 AM EST
This is party politics. These cities are about as green as it gets.
by oliver on Mon Nov 28th, 2011 at 07:46:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't see that as clearly. The Greens were strong in every major city, not just those in Baden (in fact among the strongest in Stuttgart), but even their best numbers were far from majority.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Nov 28th, 2011 at 10:35:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Because the western part (Baden) suffers from a similar project (the iron rhine), the freight line from Rotterdam to Switzerland.

That project is said to be underfunded and overdue.

One year to go !

by pi (etrib@opsec.eu) on Mon Nov 28th, 2011 at 09:24:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You mean the Rheintalbahn, that is the Karlsruhe-Basel line mentioned in the article. The Iron Rhine is a railway from Antwerp to the Ruhr area. I'm not sure if there is a connection: Mannheim and Karlsruhe voted against Stuttgart 21, although Mannheim is not affected and only a shorter section of the four-tracking is unfinished near Karlsruhe (the main missing part is Offenbach to the Katzenberg tunnel).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Nov 28th, 2011 at 10:21:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
They know if S21 is built they can forget about a new line from Frankfurt to Mannheim for the foreseeable future. Project start has already been pushed to after 2015, among other important projects. See Spiegel Online or Süddeutsche.

Schengen is toast!
by epochepoque on Mon Nov 28th, 2011 at 05:22:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Interesting stuff, but you might want to mention in the first paragraph or so that this is about trains.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Mon Nov 28th, 2011 at 07:56:57 AM EST

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Nov 28th, 2011 at 10:22:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The passing of a freight train is a rattle for two minutes, but, unlike highway noise, it's then over.

Do I have to point out that the highway will usually be somewhere else? And of course those people own a car but not a train, let alone a freight train.

That said, for the problem of getting acceptance of public construction, this is good news. It has shown that the population at large doesn't suffer from NIMBYism that much.

Germany has introduced extensive legal recourses for the protection of the individual.Just as predictable this system is abused as a political tool. This doesn't work. You cannot give some people a little voice in such decisions. Either you give the government near absolute power to ram such things through (French style) or you have a public vote. There is no working compromise.

by oliver on Mon Nov 28th, 2011 at 08:39:06 AM EST
France is actually more democratic i.e. transparent about projects. All project documents are open to the public and they have good outcomes. Compare that to S21 where backdoor channels had to be used so that some people could read S21's technical documentation. The usual background NIMBYism aside, the biggest abusers of the system are the politicos who want to see their ego projects built.

Schengen is toast!
by epochepoque on Wed Nov 30th, 2011 at 01:16:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
More transparent yes, but whether it's more democratic, I would like to know more about that. From what I know, in France, public consultations are held as prerequisites for something called the Declaration of Public Utility, the essence of which is the right for projects to expropiate people and limit possibilities for litigation. Again from what I heard, a key difference relative to the German process is that the consultation is purely informative, complainers can't effect injuctions or have a veto like (in theory) communes do in Germany.

Beyond the legal framework, what should count is the attitude of project owners/the government. In Germany, the traditional attitude of DB in particular is, beyond lack of transparency, to stick to original plans with minimal modifications and play for time, and communes rarely achieve more with injuctions than delays. I wonder how that goes in France, because I haven't read of local protests there, which can be either due to my not reading of sources that cover those, or due to a less developed culture of public protest and local authority insubordination, or due to a more flexible approach on the part of RFF and other project owners.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Nov 30th, 2011 at 09:19:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The French Enquête d'Utilité Publique is generally (if not always) a stitch-up. It is open to all members of the public, but you may only make observations, propose data... And you cannot relate the object of the enquiry to any larger scheme (such as the ecology of the region).

I'll post some more later, have to go now.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Nov 30th, 2011 at 12:23:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Given that opponents cannot link the proposal to any other, or any larger scheme of things, it's obviously in the interest of promoters (whoever they may be, private or public or both in bed with each other) to chop their projects up into smaller bits. This is called saucissonnage in French.

A local example is in the continued and long-to-continue rape of the pebble and gravel range I live on. This is deep and high-quality in terms of "noble" aggregates for construction and public works. The extractive industries lobbied successfully to get a dispensation from the normal regulation, and began putting in projects they'd been buying up land for for some years. Several companies each put in several extraction projects. Each project had its own enquiry. You could not even state that other projects existed all around the one the commissioner was dealing with (generally the same commissioner as the other enquiries). You could not bring evidence on the total destructive impact on the aquifer of nearly 1,000 hectares of gravel pits. You could not talk about the (long-term) pollution of the aquifer spreading to the river close by, and about the drinking water supply of a major city downstream. You could not talk about the creation of a new micro-climate (because of the considerable water surface) for the local area. You could not complain about the quasi-privatisation of previously public goods, like the trunk road south through the gravel pits. You could not make the general point that this massive extraction was unnecessary, and was based on projections for the 50-year growth of the suburbs of said major city that were in fact the extractive, construction and public works industries' wishful (but probably self-fulfilling) projections.

All projects sailed through the "Public Utility" enquiries. Except one or two that encroached on the zone TPTB are reserving for maybe an airport one day.

So fake transparent, fake democratic.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Nov 30th, 2011 at 03:38:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I found an interesting article on the TGV Med (warning: horrible English) with details of how things went for that project. Here massive and at times violent protests by both civilians and local politicians were triggered by the disclosure of SNCF's detailed plan at the end of 1989, as the plan did not include alternative routes. The protests were enough to force SNCF to propose alternatives, which in turn expanded the affected areas and thus the protest. The story includes the dropping of a route option at the behest of President Mitterrand, for the benefit of some rich friends who were concerned about their vineyards, a move that further angered protesters. The state then cooled the situation by taking over the choice of the preferred route (still in 1990) and by setting up an "expert body" to review SNCF's plans and replies to criticism from the protesters and commission "independent" studies (1992). These were ad-hoc measures, the proper public consultation (Public Utility Inquiry) started only after that (October 1992), and was still boycotted by some communities. In another ad-hoc measure, the government organised an overseeing of this process, too, and plans did change during the 18-month consultation, not just in the routing but also in noise and water protection specifications.

I wonder how many of the lessons learned were made regular practice and have been/will be used for the newer lines like LGV SEA.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Nov 30th, 2011 at 01:44:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The passing of a freight train is a rattle for two minutes, but, unlike highway noise, it's then over. Is a train ever half an hour instead of every two hours crossing the limit of intolerable?

From what I heard, some of those lines have trains every 10 minutes or so. Especially during the night. With very old stock and therefore very loud noises.

The iron rhine I mentioned has a similar problem: The people want a different route and some tunnels to lessen the noise and the DB is not willing to invest the extra money.

One year to go !

by pi (etrib@opsec.eu) on Mon Nov 28th, 2011 at 09:31:06 AM EST
some of those lines

Which lines? From what I found, the line in question presently has a capacity for only 8 freight trains a day, which should rise to 24 after an upgrade, though opponents scared inhabitants with a 180 trains a day number.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Nov 28th, 2011 at 10:29:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
(Sorry the first reply was a bit too quick, but I was in a hurry to catch my train home)

The people want a different route and some tunnels

The tunnel demands along the Karlsruhe-Basel line quadrupling project separated in my mind from the example in the article because they are more a case of new line construction: the extra two tracks need new right-of-way. The main noise-related disputes I'm aware of are:

  1. Offenbach: here the line leaves the main station southward in a sharp curve ( => curve noise in addition to braking noise) and is surrounded by residential areas built up in the last few decades. The extra two tracks don't fit into an already narrow corridor and need the destruction of some homes and garages, and several metres high noise protection walls would separate the city.

  2. Offenbach-Riegel: on this section, plans foresee the extra tracks next to the existing tracks. Hence, locals in towns crossed by the line would like to add the extra two tracks along the parallel highway instead ("Bürgertrasse" = "Citizen's Routing"). However, locals living close to the highway support the original plans.

  3. Middle of Freiburg freight bypass: at Freiburg, the "quadruple tracking" is actually the planned addition of a new two-track bypass line far outside the city, and only for freight trains. Although it follows the noisy highway, the mayors of two villages are more worried by the new rail noise. However, this section also passes a natural reserve, so maybe both railway and runnel would belong into cut-and-cover tunnels.

  4. Bad Krozingen and Buggingen: at its south end, the Freiburg bypass leaves the highway and returns to the original rail corridor. While the town of Mengen gets a tunnel, the next two towns don't. Locals demand that the end of the freight bypass be placed in a cut-and-cover tunnel, rather than taking up agricultural land and separating it.

  5. Katzenbergtunnel: further south, there is a section where the old line curves along a narrow, steep-sides part of the Rhine valley, while the extra two, high-speed tracks will be in a 9.4 km tunnel, to be opened end of next year. Here locals demanded that all freight trains use the tunnel. They actually won such a promise, although cramming both slow freight and fast expresses into that section may prove problematic.

  6. Haltingen: in the one case where the protest is not linked to new right-of-way, the line crosses the town just before Basel, and there were demands for a cut-and-cover tunnel. This was rejected on the grounds that the already closed planning process would have to be started over, but, at least, the existing noise protection plans were boosted.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Nov 28th, 2011 at 01:32:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
and we have used the 25,25 metre long and 60 ton heavy ones for, I don't know, it must be decades now.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Mon Nov 28th, 2011 at 05:41:11 PM EST
According to this study, made by the Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute for the Reinfeldt government's transport ministry in 2008, 24 m long and 37 t heavy trucks were introduced in 1968, with weight raised in several steps to 60 t by 1993 and length to 25.25 m in 1996.

The (pro-road) study looks at the question from the opposed direction: the economic effects of reducing the limit in Sweden to the EU norm. The main effect they see is the inverse of what is expected for the whole EU should gigaliners be adopted: namely that road transport will become more expensive. On whether this would induce a move to rail, the study is rather sceptical: they fail to find evidence in past transport statistics, claim that the typical customers of roal and rail are different, and count extra costs.

Their scenario C, however, at least sees a significant road-to-rail shift if there is parallel investment in rail infrastructure (which should be well duh category, with most money in Sweden going to roads or city cores in the same decades heavy trucks were introduced and – so says the study – SEK 46 billion was spent on making roads suited for them).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Nov 30th, 2011 at 08:59:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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