Case #2037.0

Megaprojects & the Role of the Public: Germany's Embattled 'Stuttgart 21' Rail Project

Publication Date: June 11, 2015
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In February 2010, Germany's national railway broke ground on a project that had been under negotiation for more than 20 years, the Stuttgart segment of the European Magistrale, a 930-mile cross-Europe high-speed rail line that would one day extend from Paris through Munich and Vienna to Budapest and Bratislava. At long last, the German national railway, the state of Baden-Württemberg, and the city of Stuttgart had come to agreement on the routing and station design of the megaproject. Yet within the year, the project would spark the largest citizen demonstrations Germany had seen since the reunification of the country. The Stuttgart 21 opponents were diverse, and so were their concerns, but nearly all were united by one overriding contention: that political elites had conceived the plan without public input and had later refused to take citizen objections seriously. The case provides basic background and context for this controversy, then describes four kinds of public participation that took place in the course of developing the project: (1) a city-sponsored open-participation process in 1997 allowing citizens to weigh in on the neighborhood re-development portions of the project; (2) a petition drive by opponents to hold a city referendum on the project, later followed by mass demonstrations; (3) a state-sponsored mediation process between supporters and opponents of the project; and (4) a state election followed by a state referendum on the project.

Learning Objective:
The case describes four modes of public participation, allowing students to identify and compare the salient features of each, then to assess their relative effectiveness at different stages of the process and from different points of view. At HKS, the case is taught in the third of 24 class sessions in Urban Politics, Planning and Development, a course on how public governance and planning shape cities and urban regions in the United States and Europe.

Other Details

Teaching Plan:
Available with Educator Access
Case Author:
Pamela Varley
Faculty Lead:
Quinton Mayne
Pages (incl. exhibits):
Europe, Germany