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Mediator Geißler backs Stuttgart 21 rail project
Photo: DPA

Mediator Geißler backs Stuttgart 21 rail project

Published: 30 Nov 2010 18:07 GMT+01:00
Updated: 30 Nov 2010 18:07 GMT+01:00

Heiner Geißler, chief mediator for talks on the controversial rail project Stuttgart 21, delivered his verdict on Tuesday evening, saying there would be no referendum and the expensive revamp of the train station should go forward with a few improvements.

Following five weeks of deliberations between opponents and supporters in the capital of the southern German state of Baden-Württemberg, the two sides had found no compromise, he said.

Among other alterations, the €4-billion project plans to move Stuttgart's main railway station underground and turn it round by 90 degrees. It also requires the construction of 57 new kilometres of railway track.

“Stuttgart has a building permit,” Geißler told the press, explaining that weak points of the project would be improved to create what he called a “Stuttgart 21 plus.”

Despite the environmental and budgetary concerns of its opponents, stopping the project would simply be too expensive, he said.

“An exit would create high costs for the groups responsible for the project,” he added.

But the two sides were able to reach a compromise over plans to clear trees from Stuttgart’s central Schlossgarten park. From now on builders would attempt to save as many trees as possible, or relocate them, he said.

National rail provider Deutsche Bahn has also agreed to undergo a “stress test” for the new Stuttgart train station to insure its efficiency, Geißler said.

The arbitration announcement - which is not binding - comes following months of sometimes violent protests in the normally staid southwestern German city. In one violent incident in September, police turned water cannon and pepper spray on a crowd that was blockading the Schlossgarten park, where 300 trees were due to be chopped down.

But the opposition Social Democrats (SPD) on Monday demanded a referendum on the project regardless of the outcome of the arbitration talks.

“It’s only fair if politicians allow the people to vote on such a controversial topic,” Sigmar Gabriel, SPD chairman, told reporters in Berlin.

Gabriel said if the Social Democrats came to power in state elections in Baden-Württemberg in March, the centre-left party would push for a referendum even in the knowledge scuppering Stuttgart 21 could cost up to €1 billion. Although the SPD had long backed the project, it could not be forced “with police batons,” he said.

Acknowledging that more protests were likely as construction continues, the 80-year-old Geißler said further talks between the two sides would be incrementally necessary, suggesting that church officials such as bishops take on the task of mediators.

Perhaps a sign of more strife to come, several Stuttgart 21 protestors chanted angrily outside the press conference after Geißler made his announcement.

DPA/DAPD/The Local/ka

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

19:28 November 30, 2010 by Edmond Schindler
This is great! I love a good controversy!
22:41 November 30, 2010 by JDee
You should not give the impression that it was an endorsement of the project, this is wrong. The project goes ahead because he cannot stop it but he has suggested changes should be made. The mediation seemed to focus mainly on the functionality of the train station, for my mind it did not address the more esoteric issues such as the protection of heritage adequately. One key point, which would probably kill the project if it was legally enforceable, is that DB were unable to demonstrate the claimed 30% increase of traffic in the new station, Geissler has asked that they do this now, but since they have done everything possible to riddle out of presenting the facts so far I wouldn't hold my breath. I suspect they will just try and steam ahead, disrespecting the suggestions of Mr. Geissler and triggering more PEACEFUL protests ( you incorrectly state in your article that there have been violent protests, this is completely untrue, only a few violent actions by the police. Also the protesters on 30.09 were not blockading anything , they were just in the park, the police moved into the crowd. ). For me the mediation has shown that the arguments against S21 were fully justified, in fact in terms of the utility of the planned station and surrounding network it is far worse than I understood before.
07:10 December 1, 2010 by auniquecorn
No violent Protests JDee?

I guess throwing stones at the police is not violent? I saw all the videos on news.
09:14 December 1, 2010 by JDee
I'm sorry that is wrong, they reported that in the news but it was a lie. See here on youtube,

watch?v=cXAxq9s4dvk

watch?v=FQjzMNZlSEk

Can you find the video that you think you saw, I can't and I've never seen anyone throwing stones on video nor did I see anyone throwing stones when I was in the park.
09:14 December 3, 2010 by Joshontour
Jdee I travel through the Stuttgart main station 6 days a week... To say that there has not been violent protesters is completely untrue... I have witnessed it with my own eyes, I have seen the protesters push around the pro S21 joggers, I have seen them rip pro S21 buttons from peoples shirts and spit in their faces. I have seen them take pro S21 literature from people and push them to the ground... You are looking through rose colored glasses
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