Meeting the climate targets set by the federal and state governments requires a greater expansion of public transport. In order to make the Stuttgart rail hub fit for the future beyond 2030, experts believe that further additions are necessary.
Minister of Transport Winfried Hermann said in Stuttgart on 15 March 2023: “The targeted doubling of demand in all public transport leads to more than a threefold increase in rail traffic with regional trains in the Stuttgart node compared to 2010.” He presented the results of the expert reports on the 2040 rail node (PDF), which the ministry had commissioned for this purpose as part of the 2021 coalition agreement. According to this, a long-term infrastructure development is necessary in the Stuttgart rail hub. “This development has already been initiated by several additions to the Stuttgart 21 project, which we as a state have launched together with the project partners,” Minister Hermann explained.
The Stuttgart 21 rail hub continues to develop
The additions to the original Stuttgart 21 plans include the addition of a second track to the Wendlinger Kurve (so-called Große Wendlinger Kurve), which is already being implemented, the decided construction of the Pfaffensteigtunnel to connect the airport with the Gäubahn, the already realised regional stop Stuttgart-Vaihingen, the already commissioned Merklingen station on the Mittlere Alb on the new Stuttgart-Ulm line, the politically decided preservation of the panorama railway in Stuttgart, the implementation of the P option and, above all, the digitalisation of the entire rail node decided by the project partners and the federal government. The electronic train control system ETCS serves as a carrier system for a considerable increase in the capacity of the infrastructure.
Increase in demand makes further additions necessary
The Minister emphasised: “We want to consistently implement the mandate from the coalition agreement to ensure climate-neutral mobility in 2040. The experts’ transport modelling shows the need for further expansion to meet further growth in demand.” A central key here, he said, is the digitisation of the rail hub, which will enable there to be over 100 arrivals of long-distance and regional trains as well as suburban trains at the main station during the peak hour and thus far more than envisaged in the original S-21 plans. The double-decker trains ordered by the state for regional rail transport will also lead to a further significant increase in passenger capacity. In quadruple traction, they will be a good 420 metres long and have up to 1,520 seats.
Local transport triangle as new infrastructure
Minister Winfried Hermann said: “The necessary further expansion steps include the further development of the original Nordkreuz into a local transport triangle. This will involve the creation of connections between the Panoramabahn, Feuerbach and Bad Cannstatt, including a regional transport T-bar. The Panoramabahn must be provided with additional stops and linking stations and developed into another important rail axis through the city.” The costs for Norddreieck are put at around half a billion euros. Added to this are the renovation costs of the Panorama Railway.
In the view of the experts, the access routes to the railway junction would also have to be gradually expanded in order to increase capacity. This includes the new Deutschland-Takt tunnel in the northern approach from the high-speed line from Mannheim to Feuerbach with a fifth and sixth track. Feuerbach would become an attractive regional stop. The experts have identified 115 individual measures to increase the performance of the feeder lines as a long-term expansion requirement, the total cost of which is estimated at around 3.9 billion euros. To achieve this, the federal government must provide sufficient funding for Deutsche Bahn, which will be oriented towards the common good in the future.
Digitisation and better access more effective than expansion
According to Minister Winfried Hermann, digitisation and the expansion of the feeder lines are the decisive steps to increase capacity and thus more effective than a further expansion in the centre of the railway junction: “This means that the goal that the state was aiming for with an underground supplementary station will be achieved in a different way. I have been persuaded that this is an exemplary case where digitisation can replace an infrastructure expansion with concrete and resource consumption.”
The infrastructure expansion in the core of the node is not absolutely necessary in the short term as a capacity overflow, he said. However, the local transport triangle should be pursued quickly as a transport turnaround project, if only because of its own positive effects on passenger demand, but also in order to have an infrastructure available that is resilient to incidents. To this end, the transport minister wants to enter into talks with the region, the city and Deutsche Bahn.