An ICE route is to be made operational in northern Germany, and the optimal access to the Brenner Base Tunnel is to be found in the south. Citizens’ initiatives here and there want to prevent new routes – so far without success. The accusation of “citizen fraud” is therefore making the rounds. Deutsche Bahn disagrees.

If you want to know how things are with the railways in Germany, you only have to read travel reports on Twitter. Celebrities, politicians and everyone else who likes to communicate immediately reports delays in departure and arrival. This is highly subjective, but due to the sheer volume it is an indicator of dissatisfaction with the rail-based transport system in this country.

In order to get the train running, you need a functional network, i.e. the best possible hardware. Everyone agrees on that. But sooner or later the question arises: upgrade existing tracks or build new ones? There is dissent about this in the far north and deep south of Germany – between the citizens who come together in initiatives on the one hand and Deutsche Bahn on the other.

Between Hamburg and Hanover, for example, the ICE and freight traffic are to be accelerated. 15 to 20 minutes less should supposedly be possible. For this purpose, Deutsche Bahn presented four possible routes to the Ministry of Transport at the end of December. Including two new routes, partly along the A7 motorway, through nature and residential areas. The result: stress with citizens and communities.

“According to everything that is known so far and has not been denied by the railways, this should be the preferred option,” explains Peter Dörsam, mayor of the joint municipality of Tostedt and spokesman for the “Alpha-E” project advisory board, to FOCUS online. Preferred variant means that it probably amounts to a new building. Different than agreed.

Because in 2015, citizens, politicians and railway representatives agreed on the Alpha E variant in the “North Rail Dialogue Forum”. So to an expansion of existing routes in the Bremen-Hamburg-Hanover triangle.

“Planning along the A7 and thus around 30 kilometers away from the existing tracks cannot, with the best will in the world, be regarded as an expansion of the existing structure,” criticizes Dörsam. The project advisory board he speaks for is a group of representatives from communities and citizens’ initiatives.

The local politician is even clearer: “The variant on which all sides agreed in the dialogue forum was not examined in parts. This dialogue forum was actually a prime example of good public participation. Actually!” Citizens’ initiatives such as “Y-Monster” in Seevetal therefore accuse the railways of “citizen fraud”.

In the Seevatal district of Ramelsloh, 900 people came together on January 14, despite the pouring rain, to protest against a new line. After dark, they lit torches where future tracks might run. Overall, there was great anger at the railway.

The question arises as to whether the state-owned company doesn’t really care about the public’s will when it comes to large-scale projects and whether a certain pattern is even emerging. First snuggle up in dialogue forums, then toughly pull your own line? Because even in the district of Ebersberg, east of Munich, there is clear criticism of a major project, the northern access on the German side for the Brenner base tunnel near Innsbruck.

A citizens’ initiative accuses the railways of acting according to their own pleasure principle. “Arbitrariness and ignorance towards the region, citizens and cross-party decisions down to the state level” are denounced. The dialogue forum that was also held here describes the citizens’ initiative as a “farce”, in which a lot was promised, little was recorded and nothing was implemented.

The Ebersberg District Administrator Robert Niedergesäß (CSU) is also angry with the Bahn: “We are appalled at the arrogance and ignorance with which the Bahn ignores the joint proposals from the district council, municipalities, committed citizens and agriculture for a close-to-stock expansion,” said he. Specifically, it is about the route between Grafing in the Ebersberg district and Ostermünchen in the Rosenheim district.

Deutsche Bahn does not want to let these allegations stand. A railway spokeswoman explained in writing when asked by FOCUS online: “At Deutsche Bahn, broad public participation and involvement plays a key role in planning. Local needs can be identified through the early involvement of citizens. In this way, they can be taken into account in the early planning phases.” This was also shown in particular by the “Optimized AlphaE Bremen” and the “Brenner Nordzulauf” project.

According to their own statements, most of the citizens’ initiatives in the Bavarian region supported the implementation of the project in the name of climate change. However, they call for an upgraded route that is sustainable for people and nature. Because: “From our point of view, the new route is neither acceptable for people nor for nature – for example, we are talking about 30,000 cubic meters of earth movement in the case of existing extensions, and about 1,400,000 cubic meters in the case of new construction,” it says.

“Here, too, the local farmers and a carpenter would have to give up their businesses.” In addition, the new route, the so-called “Limone” variant, would affect many towns and would cut through a village. “The land sealing and fragmentation would be immense, but it could easily be prevented by expanding the stock.”

The railway spokeswoman counters: “With a stress test, DB examined the entire system of new and existing routes with regard to noise and vibrations. This approach was a key demand from critics. As a result, however, the ‘Limone’ variant remains in first place here too.”

Susanna Koller from the citizens’ initiative Brenner Nordzulauf is very disappointed, as she tells FOCUS online. “Why not expand the stock instead of cutting a two-track path through nature?” She and her fellow campaigners have not given up hope that things could turn out differently.

Unlike the train. The route selection process for the Grafing-Ostermünchen section has been completed for the company. “From DB’s point of view, the result will withstand both the subsequent planning approval process and a legal review.”