Germans back new $5.5B train station in referendum
BERLIN—Voters in one of Germany's wealthiest regions on Sunday solidly backed the euro4.1 billion ($5.5 billion) construction of a disputed new underground train station in a referendum, official results showed Sunday.
A majority of 58.8 percent of Baden-Wuerttemberg state's voters rejected a motion that would have forced the government to cancel the construction contract with German railway operator Deutsche Bahn AG, the state election commission said.
According to results from all 44 of the state's electoral districts, 41.2 percent were in favor of the motion.
The project to take the state capital Stuttgart's main train station underground has proven hugely controversial. Tens of thousands turned out repeatedly last year to protest the project.
But the project's critics, who have said the infrastructure project is a waste of money and will lead to sizable cost overruns, conceded defeat late Sunday.
"The people have spoken," state governor Winfried Kretschmann -- himself among the project's critics -- told public broadcaster SWR, vowing to respect the outcome.
Supporters of the Stuttgart 21 train station maintain it will free up the city's packed center and help shorten journeys across Europe, for example for trains traveling between Paris, Munich and Vienna. They also said that canceling the contract could have resulted in huge fines of up to euro1.5 billion -- without getting any improvement to the state's infrastructure.
About 7.6 million citizens were called to the polls Sunday, and voter turnout stood at 48.3 percent.
The bitter dispute surrounding the project was seen as a key factor leading to a historic election defeat in the state for German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative local allies earlier this year.
Merkel's Christian Democratic Union held power there since 1953, but was defeated in March when voters led the country's ecological party, the Greens, who oppose the new train station, to a triumphant victory.
The new center-left state coalition government led by Kretschmann is split over the new train station and called the referendum.