29 Jun 2021, 14:19
Benjamin Wehrmann

City tunnel beneath Frankfurt to become 'centrepiece' of German railway strategy – ministry

Clean Energy Wire / HR

German railway operator Deutsche Bahn is planning one of the largest infrastrucuture projects of the next decade by digging a tunnel beneath the centre of Frankfurt am Main, the country's most important transport hub. A feasibility study commissioned by Deutsche Bahn found that a tunnel could greatly increase the capacity for long-distance traffic of one of Germany's busiest railway stations. The tunnel with a length of up to ten kilometres and a new departure platform beneath Frankfurt's existing dead-end station are expected to cost about 3.6 billion euros and take ten years to build. It would increase the station's capacity from 1,250 to 1,500 trains per day, Deutsche Bahn said. Enak Ferlemann, state secretary in Germany's transport ministry, said the project would be "the centrepiece" of Deutsche Bahn's plan for a Germany-wide integrated timetable and would remedy a "chronic bottleneck" in the German railway grid. The project would make Frankfurt a "bustling hub for Europe" that facilitates train connections between cities as distant as Berlin and Barcelona, he added.

However, critics say the tunnel rather is a vanity project that serves the interests of construction companies. Klaus Gietinger, founder of the "Frankfurt 22" initiative, told public broadcaster HR the project would most likely be finished much later and at a much greater cost than announced, pointing out that much cheaper railway infrastructure projects in the city planned as early as 2003 still have not been completed. Gietinger also criticised the climate impact of the substantial construction works needed to dig the tunnel under the city centre, which would reduce the transit time through the city by a mere eight minutes.

Improving the national railway system is a core element of Germany's plans for getting its transport sector on track towards climate neutrality, which so far has been among the most stubborn to decarbonise. The government last year announced it would start to invest at least three billion euros annually in rail infrastructure in a bid to make its entire network greener, more efficient and more reliable.

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