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Germany

German rail chief proposes talks with opponents of Stuttgart train station

The head of Deutsche Bahn said he was willing to talk to the leaders of more than 30,000 demonstrators who have opposed a multi-billion-euro scheme to overhaul the Stuttgart train station.

Stuttgart's main train station

Much of the Stuttgart train station is set to be torn down

Protestors have claimed the 4.1-billion-euro ($5.3-billion) project to relocate train lines going into Stuttgart's central station underground is a waste of money. Half of the city's historic railway station is being torn down so construction can begin.

The German rail company, Deutsche Bahn, is paying only a fraction of the cost. Its chief, Ruediger Grube, issued an invitation late Friday to the anti-project coalition to meet for roundtable talks next month.

"We have to act like grown-ups," he said. At the same time Gruebe affirmed that the project would go ahead, saying that legislation has been passed and contracts issued.

"Let's sit down at the table and talk about things - especially the facts," he said in an interview with German public broadcaster SWR, adding that PR surrounding the construction project had gone "very, very badly."

Bahn won't delay construction

Protesters standing on part of the train station

The project opponents overran construction site this week

Gruebe added that the Bahn would not submit to demands to halt construction during the discussions. Axel Wieland, spokesperson for one of the groups organizing the demonstrations, said it would amount to little more than a diversionary tactic to hold talks while maintaining the construction schedule.

"You can't have a nice conversation with us while the construction work keeps chugging along," he told the AFP news agency.

Protesters have picketed the building site at Stuttgart's main station for weeks. Only a small core of demonstrators was at the site Saturday as work continued demolishing one wing of the station. Police counted 30,000 people Friday at a protest vigil outside the state parliament in Stuttgart. The protest movement claimed 50,000. The protesters said they expect about 10,000 people to come to another demonstration on Monday.

The protesters have criticized that the costs for the project have grown from 7 billions euros to 11 billion. Proponents, however, have pointed out that work for the new train station has created 4,000 jobs, and shorter travel times that would help the environment as more people travel via rail instead of flying.

Only the station's main section will remain when all the rail lines have been moved underground and the land above has been subdivided for buildings and a park.

Author: Sean Sinico (dpa/AFP/AP)

Editor: Darren Mara

DW.DE