German Greens forced to backtrack on rail project
Germany's first Green party-led state government was forced Monday to backtrack on its opposition to a contentious major rail project after a referendum showed most people supported the venture.
The Greens had campaigned against the 4.5-billion-euro ($6 billion) revamping of the rail network in and around Stuttgart ahead of a March regional election when it routed Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats.
But although the Greens had called for a rethink of the project, it said it would let the voters decide. In Sunday's poll, nearly 59 percent of voters backed the venture, while 41 percent were against. Turnout was 48 percent.
Winfried Kretschmann, premier of Baden-Wuerrtemberg state, said his Green party and its governing coalition partners, the Social Democrats, both accepted and would implement the result, but warned against the plan going over budget.
"As far as the Greens are concerned, we will now change from being opposed and critical, to constructive and critical," he told reporters.
He also demanded that German rail pick up any possible additional costs from the venture, stating the 4.5-billion-euro budget was "the end of the line".
The project dubbed "Stuttgart 21" aims to make the city and southwest region part of a 1,500-kilometre (930-mile), high-speed rail route across Europe.
But a major revamp and partial destruction of Stuttgart's historic train station is needed, and opponents say the project will be much more expensive, potentially dangerous and do little or nothing to speed up rail traffic.
© 2011 AFP