Sunday 4th July 2021
Underground station under Frankfurt
“Hope Deutsche Bahn has learned from Stuttgart 21”
A new mega-project by Deutsche Bahn in Frankfurt brings back bad memories. Does Deutsche Bahn risk a second Stuttgart 21? The outcry that is otherwise common in major projects has so far been absent. The green traffic expert Matthias Gastel sees parallels and differences.
Deutsche Bahn wants to build a new underground station in Frankfurt, 35 meters underground. That causes a déjà vu in many – is a new Stuttgart 21 being created here?
Matthias Gastel: We have a completely different situation at Frankfurt Central Station. There is a massive bottleneck, so additional long-distance traffic is currently impossible. With the additional underground station, two new tracks with four new station tracks will be created and more people will be able to travel by train. The project is also part of the Deutschland-Takt. Stuttgart 21, on the other hand, was basically never a transport project. A terminus station is being replaced there in order to gain real estate space above and sell it at high prices. Stuttgart 21 brings absolutely nothing to traffic, just new bottlenecks. Deutsche Bahn itself was not a friend of S21, the federal government put it on it.
Nevertheless: No angry citizen has stood up, no nature conservationist has raised concerns. 19 associations, municipalities, and those involved think the project is good. There has never been so much agreement.
The project simply has a compelling logic for everyone who is serious about shifting traffic, i.e. switching from the car or plane to the train. We create more offers and fewer delays. Because there are many delays that affect the entire republic from the Frankfurt hub. As a frequent train traveler, I constantly experience that the train does not come into Frankfurt and is therefore somewhere in the forest on the route. The fact that the protest did not take place is also due to the fact that the previous main station will be retained. In addition, Deutsche Bahn has better informed and involved everyone involved right from the start.
Are you not even afraid of the cost of 3.6 billion euros?
That’s the only parallel to S21 that I see. It’s going to be very expensive. And the 3.6 billion euros are probably not even the final sum. I don’t know of any major federal government and DB projects that didn’t end up being more expensive. My hope is that DB has learned from S21 – and will not operate again with political figures that later turn out to be wrong. My appeal: be transparent, say aggressively yourself when it becomes more. We have to learn to be more honest on large projects. S21 was and is a daunting example.
Ten years are planned, then at least another ten years will be built, and at some point in the 2040s it should be that time in Frankfurt. That doesn’t sound like acceleration. Isn’t that faster?
The railway has to massively increase its planning capacities. That is the big eye of the needle. To do this, we should withdraw planning capacities from the federal motorway company and use it for the planning of rail projects. Engineers who plan road construction can also use rails, which is not so different for certain tasks. It is also important that Deutsche Bahn still has resources for smaller measures – such as electrification or the reactivation of disused railway lines. Otherwise we won’t be able to turn traffic around.
Monika Dunkel spoke to Matthias Gastel
The interview first appeared at Capital.de.