Mass protest planned against German rail project

20th August 2010, Comments 0 comments

Opponents of Germany's biggest construction project in the southwestern city of Stuttgart said Friday they hoped at least 20,000 people would take part in a protest later in the day.

"We expect at least 10,000 to attend, and hope that there will be at least 20,000," Axel Wieland, a spokesman for the organisers, told AFP. The demo was due to start at 1630 GMT.

A previous protest on August 13 attracted "significantly" more than 20,000 people, organisers said. Police put the number of demonstrators at between 15,000 and 18,000.

The nine-year, seven-billion-euro (nine-billion-dollar) "Stuttgart 21" project, which has just begun, aims to transform the city and the surrounding region into the rail crossroads of 21st-century Europe.

Engineers plan 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 station will be utterly transformed, from a terminus into an underground through-station, so that trains no longer have to chug in and back out but can whiz through on their way to Paris, Bratislava, Hamburg or Rome.

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

In particular they object to the side wings of their beloved train station building, an interwar modernist classic designed by Paul Bonatz, falling victim to the wrecking ball.

The 10-million-strong state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, of which the capital is Stuttgart, has elections in March, and the project could well be a decisive factor in Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives losing power.

© 2010 AFP

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