Billion-dollar additional costs, years of delays and a new dispute over the financing of the Stuttgart 21 rail project: In a fire letter to the chairman of the group supervisory board and Federal Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP), the transport minister of Baden-Württemberg, Winfried Hermann, accuses Deutsche Bahn of failing to finance the To hinder the digitalization of the new rail hub. In the letter, the Green politician warns of a “risk of complete failure” of the project. The “Spiegel” reported first.

The background to the dispute between the federal government, railways and state is a debate about the urgently needed digitalization of the railways in Stuttgart. The so-called Digital Hub Stuttgart (DKS) is intended, among other things, to increase the capacity of the tunnel station and, in a further step, to potentially make the S-Bahn in the Stuttgart area more reliable and punctual. The implementation of this project is uncertain. The railway board initially stopped the digital project by committee reservation. Hermann is now calling for the reservation to be lifted at the next supervisory board meeting on June 28th.

The Stuttgart 21 project not only stands for the construction of the new main train station in the state capital, but also for the complete reorganization of the Stuttgart rail hub. New train stations are being built, such as a new long-distance train station at the airport, dozens of kilometers of railway lines and tunnels, culverts and bridges. In addition to Stuttgart 21, the Stuttgart-Ulm rail project also includes the new construction of the Wendlingen-Ulm high-speed line, which opened in 2022. The heart of Stuttgart 21 is the new underground main station, which, in contrast to the previous terminus station, will be a through station.

Date of commissioning unclear

It is currently unclear when the new station will go into operation. The railway announced in March that the existing Stuttgart main station would remain in operation at least until 2026. This was actually supposed to be replaced by the new underground station in December 2025. The railway must decide at least 18 months before the start of the new timetable whether, and if so to what extent, trains can run through the new underground station from December 2025. Deutsche Bahn announced last week that it would inform the project partners in June about its plans to put Stuttgart 21 into operation.

At the beginning of May, Deutsche Bahn failed in several lawsuits before the Stuttgart Administrative Court, which were intended to force the project partners to contribute to the billions of euros in additional costs of Stuttgart 21. These currently amount to at least 6.5 billion euros and, as a result of the ruling, must be paid by the state-owned Deutsche Bahn. The ruling is not yet legally binding. Deutsche Bahn announced after the judge’s ruling that it would examine whether to appeal against the decision.

The company currently estimates the total cost of the project at around 11 billion euros and has also factored in a buffer of 500 million euros. However, a financing agreement from 2009 only regulates the distribution of costs up to a good 4.5 billion euros. In recent years, there have been repeated cost increases. The railway recently cited rising construction prices as the reason for this.