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Stuttgart protest attracts 20,000 silent demonstrators

AFP/DDP/The Local · 21 Aug 2010, 10:23

Published: 21 Aug 2010 10:23 GMT+02:00

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Organisers said there were up to 30,000 people, but police estimated the crowd to be around 17,000.

Gathering at the north wing of the central station, they marched through town to the Schloßplatz for a rally, where they listened to speakers and then held a loud minute of protest.

Head of the Green party Renate Künast was at the rally, saying she was surprised by the size of the crowd and telling them she was sure the project would fail.

Her party has opposed the project to the fury of conservatives who insist it will go ahead.

The massive €4.5-billion Stuttgart 21 project aims to transform the southwestern city and the surrounding region into an important European railway crossroads.

Click here for a photo gallery of Stuttgart 21 plans.

The plan is to blast 16 tunnels and cuttings into the many surrounding hills, build 18 new bridges, lay 60 kilometres (38 miles) of new train track and create three new stations.

Stuttgart's main station will be utterly transformed from a terminus into an underground through-station on the major European connections between Rome and Berlin, and Paris-Vienna-Budapest. There will also be a rail link to Stuttgart airport and a new line between Wendlingen and Ulm.

"Around 2.5 million people live in the Stuttgart region and they are stuck in traffic morning, noon and night," Stuttgart 21's spokesman Wolfgang Drexler told AFP.

"There have been no major construction projects here for 20 years."

But many in Stuttgart say the project is far too disruptive and expensive and that the rail network could be improved in other, cheaper ways. They also fear it will go over budget.

In particular they object to the side wings of the historic train station building, an interwar modernist classic designed by Paul Bonatz, being demolished.

The conservative newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, likened it to destroying St. Peters in the Vatican City but leaving the dome intact.

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Opponents also say that doing so much underground construction is potentially dangerous, and that the current station need only be modernised. Others say that many of the new lines will be unsuitable for cargo trains.

"It's been neglected a bit, but it's still the second most punctual terminus station in Germany," says Axel Wieland from the BUND green pressure group, one of the many organisations against the project.

But supporters say that when the decision to go ahead was taken in 1995, a majority supported it. And a whole new district will be created where the rail lines now stand, freeing up land for parks and valuable real estate.

The traditionally conservative state of Baden-Württemberg, where Stuttgart is the capital, will hold elections in March, and some observers believe the unpopular rail project could affect support for Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats.

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AFP/DDP/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

08:35 August 22, 2010 by bday1313
I lived in this pretty city about three years -- many years ago. I'm not sure how this would affect the area around the station, but I hope it doesn't destroy the area.
10:16 August 22, 2010 by StefanCramer
Believe me, it will destroy the "pretty city" you have been used to. Imagine a twelve meter deep and 1 kilometer long ditch driven through the heart of the main rail station and the adjacent Schlosspark. Imagine 2.000 additional trucks a day with rock waste from the tunneling operations. Imagine the precious mineral water resources of Stuttgart (ever been to The Leuze or The Berg?) being drained into swelling anhydrite? The risks are many, benefits few if any. And the price tag simply unacceptable in these times of economic crisis.
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