In Stuttgart, they are building a new station. The project is called Stuttgart 21 and is a fairly big deal. At the moment, Stuttgart station is a terminus station – all the trains come in forwards and leave backwards. The new station will be a through station. And as if that wasn’t enough it will be underground with a new park to be built above it. There is the small issue of the station being in the middle of a large city too which makes the building a bit tricky too. It took years of negotiation, protests, anti-protests and general argy-bargy to get the project moving. Taking their inspiration from the famous “Tuesday Demonstrations” which eventually brought the fall of communism in East Germany, the anti Stuttgart 21 movement organised Monday Demos at the old station for years. Their main complaint was that they feared the 4,5 billion euro project might go over budget. At the same time Germany was propping up their own banks to the tune of 30 billion, so it didn’t seem too bad to me.
The anti Stuttgart 21 crew didn’t catch the imagination of the people like the Tuesday demonstrations did. I suppose overthrowing an evil communist dictatorship still scores higher than complaining because building work might be a bit pricey. Anyway, the project was eventually approved and building is underway.
I have no doubt that it will go over budget – which publicly funded project doesn’t cost too much. But at least we are using tax money to build something which will actually do some good. It won’t be ready for another five years but I admire the will of the State to buckle down and have a go at such a project. Stuttgart has a very good underground system – which was built in 1980. These big projects mean a decade of upheaval and traffic delays but they still get them done. When I think about the London runway discussions or the HS2 plans in England… it just doesn’t feel like they’ll ever get done.
Mind you, Germany also has its fair share of failed building projects. The most famous one is the new Berlin airport. A complete cock-up which has become a national joke. Because Berlin is perceived as “cool” (they had an openly gay party-going mayor!) and there are lots of politicians there, lots of things get funded. Berlin really needs a new airport – the retro feel of Tegel or the portakabins of Schönefeld don’t really cut it on the international stage. They have built one – but apparently it doesn’t work and somebody forgot to keep the plans. It was supposed to cost 1 billion and open in October 2007. Now the cost is up to 6 billion and it might open in 2018. Hmmm… German efficiency eh?
Going way over budget does have quite a tradition in Germany. Mad King Ludwig died under mysterious circumstances in 1886 – many believe it may have been because his government were sick of him wasting money on his fantasy castles. But now that Neuschwanstein attracts 1.5 million paying visitors each year, the Bavarian state has forgiven him. Maybe he was just playing the long game.
I look forward to Stuttgart 21 being finished. I will be able to get to Munich half an hour faster. Oh, I forgot. I don’t much like Munich. Never mind, at least I’ll be able to get back to Stuttgart more quickly too.