Massive Cost Overruns? German Rail Allegedly Hid Price Tag of Stuttgart 21

German national rail provider Deutsche Bahn has been systematically doctoring projected costs for the controversial Stuttgart 21 project for years, according to internal documents obtained by SPIEGEL. The real costs would have put a stop to the undertaking two years ago if they'd become public.

The mega rail project is deeply unpopular in Baden-Württemberg's state capital.
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The mega rail project is deeply unpopular in Baden-Württemberg's state capital.

Plans to turn Stuttgart's main train station into an underground through station and major European hub are deeply unpopular and have sparked a massive protest movement. Not only is the ambitious €4.1 billion infrastructure project unnecessary, say opponents in the southern state of Baden-Württemberg, but it will damage the environment and cost too much.

Now according to internal documents obtained by SPIEGEL, it appears protestors may have been right about the expense. Memos, protocols and evaluations dated between 2002 and 2010 show that national rail provider Deutsche Bahn has hidden the true costs of the project for years. Up to two years ago costs were already projected to exceed €4.5 billion.

Internally, however, Deutsche Bahn had set €4.5 billion as the absolute maximum for the project. Should that upper limit be breached, the project was to be cancelled. State Transport Minister Winfried Hermann hinted at that limit in a recent state parliament debate when he said that "there is no general requirement to fund Stuttgart 21 beyond €4.5 billion. The project, he said, will "get not a single cent more" from the state government.

But even before this, the documents obtained by SPIEGEL show Deutsche Bahn's public figures for Stuttgart 21 were significantly lower than internal calculations. By late 2002, the discrepancy had reached €700 million. By March 2005, when costs were publicly estimated at €2.8 billion, the documents show internal estimates exceeded this by €1.3 billion.

At the time DB Projektbau, the subsidiary that conducts Deutsche Bahn's large-scale railway construction projects, was already projecting costs of €4.1 billion -- the sum that Deutsche Bahn CEO Rüdiger Grube would not publicly name for another four years. But by that time internal projections had already exceeded €5 billion, documents show.

Company Denies Fudging Costs

A Deutsche Bahn spokesman declined to comment on the details of SPIEGEL's report, explaining that "differing expenditure sums" were not unusual and arise from "different, sophisticated planning stages." Such calculations are the "explicit task of the project management," the spokesperson added.

"For Deutsche Bahn … it is unfathomable what kind of factual and constructive contribution these documents published by SPIEGEL are supposed to provide, when they come from well before 2009," another Deutsche Bahn source told news agency DPA.

Meanwhile Baden-Württemberg's new state government, led by the environmentalist Greens after they achieved a historic victory -- thanks in part to Stuttgart 21 opposition -- called on the company to use the upcoming presentation of "stress test" results to reveal the project's true costs.

In mid-July, Swiss consulting company SMA is scheduled to present the results of the review on the project's viability. Simulations of the planned underground station must show that it would be some 30 percent more efficient than the existing station to move forward.

With reporting by Andreas Wassermann



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