THE first trains to use the new underground central station in Stuttgart will not run until the end of 2026 at the earliest. German Rail (DB) informed its project partners, the Baden-Württemberg state government, the Stuttgart city government, the Verband Region Stuttgart (VRS) transport authority, Stuttgart Airport and the German federal government, on June 11 that the Stuttgart 21 project will be delayed by a further year.

DB first warned the project partners earlier this year that it could not guarantee that the opening of the new station, originally scheduled for 2019, would happen in time for the timetable change in December 2025. The latest delay is understood to be caused by problems with digital systems, notably ETCS. German media sources suggest that some components have suffered a delay of two-and-a-half years in their production, certification and installation.

The first test trains with passengers are now expected to run in 2026, although simultaneous operation of the existing surface and new underground platforms as previously suggested is now believed to be unlikely. The opening of a high-speed station at Stuttgart Airport is scheduled for the same time as Stuttgart 21 in December 2026.

DB has been in a long-running legal battle with the project partners over the funding of the controversial scheme. The original cost of €3bn has repeatedly risen and is now estimated at around €11.45bn. DB started legal action against the project partners after they refused to pay the additional sums demanded by DB, on the basis that they had signed a fixed-fee agreement.

Last month the administrative court agreed with the project partners, leaving DB responsible for an additional €7bn, plus court costs. Despite the judgement, DB maintained that the project partners are responsible for their share of additional costs, estimated at €4.56bn.

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