Thousands of people gather at Stuttgart central station every day. If it weren't for this conversion in the Stuttgart tomb, valued at 21 billion dollars.

A suitcase is wrapped with ribbons from a construction site.

Caution at road works! Stuttgart train station currently supports a lot of weight Illustration: Jeong Hwa Min

STUTTGART taz | Stuttgart central station is like a big anthill. Travelers quickly pull their strollers in all directions, families try not to lose sight of their children, and young people with backpacks want to explore the city. It is open 24 hours a day and thousands of people come here every day. You are waiting for someone, they are picking you up, you want to leave, get off or change trains. More than 1,200 trains normally run through here every day and travelers first have to find the right way.

This is not always easy, because the Stuttgart train station has been a huge construction site for many years. While railway operations are maintained, a new underground station is being built next to the old terminal station, the large “Stuttgart 21” project.

Construction work began in 2010 and was initially estimated to cost €2.5 billion. The project, which Deutsche Bahn announced as the “new heart of Europe”, was originally due to be completed in 2019, as a Paris-Bratislava axis was supposed to pass through Stuttgart. Nobody talks about that anymore.

The old main building can no longer be accessed from the station courtyard, but must be surrounded by a wide arch. Large signs point with arrows in the direction of “from the main station to platform 1-16”, also in English. The signs are complemented by a thick, continuous green line on the ground where the same text can be read.

The peculiarity Stuttgart 21 is the complete reorganization of the Stuttgart railway hub. With the terminal station operating at the same time, the central structure of the project is the future underground station with only 8 tracks. Its roof consists of 28 cup supports in a concrete structure never before built.

The target group All train travelers in the world. The remains of the Stuttgart terminal station are testaments to the city's history and can still be seen today. Even if you don't want to travel.

Obstacles on the wayThe costs, which have now amounted to more than 10 billion euros. Construction work has been delayed due to water leaks and the shift to new digital security and monitoring technologies is proving difficult.

Other large-format signs indicate the direction to the DB information, the toilets (on platform 1), the waiting areas and the VVS ticket counter, in front of which there is a long queue of people. The one-way street rule applies: anyone who wants to turn around goes against the flow.

Behind wooden walls

While Stuttgart 21 is built behind large wooden walls with windows, all rail traffic continues to run on the 16 tracks of the former terminus station. However, there are limitations. Many trains no longer serve Stuttgart and on some lines passengers have to change to alternative bus services.

Large information panels on the tracks show where the trains are going. Passengers look at the ticker with interest: “…Berlin…delay of approximately 70 minutes…Tübingen…train canceled today…Oberstdorf…change of train order…there is a bus service in the direction of Schorndorf,…please find out more…” said the friendly person. A heads up. Most travelers quietly support cancellations and changes; There are no DB employees to ask or complain to.

In front of these information panels with restless messages you can see how calmly the conversion to Stuttgart 21 is progressing. Little by little, the subway station made its way into the city's subway and Stuttgart 21 was controversial from the beginning. The most striking milestones were an illegal police operation in September 2010, “Black Thursday” with the evacuation of the gardens of the neighboring castle and a referendum in 2011 in which the exit from the construction project was rejected. To date, the “Monday demonstrations” against the project are among the longest civil protests in the entire country.

There is still a vigil on Arnulf-Klett Square opposite; The greenhouse is busy every day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. From here, from the station patio, you can see how the work has been surrounded. Digging, hammering, sawing and concreting are done behind high fences; Access is only possible for construction company personnel. One of them, who works on the facades and roof structures, is called “Alma”.

Historical devastation

The interior of Stuttgart Central Station's proud reception building, the century-old Bonatz Building, will be completely modernized. The listed building has suffered historic devastation as a result of the construction works, but “the external appearance that defines the streetscape will be preserved” is the promise.

This text comes from Laborable day. Our left-wing weekly! Every week, wochentaz is about the world as it is and as it could be. A left-wing weekly with a voice, attitude and a special vision of the world. New every Saturday on newsstands and of course by subscription.

Estimated costs for Stuttgart 21 have more than quadrupled to over €10 billion. The entry into operation of the new station is officially scheduled for December 2025, but no one, apart from Deutsche Bahn, believes in that date anymore.

At some point a train will go somewhere. Hope is the last thing you lose.