More than 60,000 Germans protest railway project

AP News
Posted: Oct 09, 2010 6:41 PM
More than 60,000 Germans protest railway project

More than 60,000 people took to the streets of Stuttgart on Saturday to protest a disputed railway project in southwestern Germany that has become a headache for Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Protest organizer Christoph Wertz said more than 100,000 people turned out to oppose plans to move the city's station underground. Police said in a statement that over 63,000 people joined the protest rally.

Critics view the euro4.1 billion ($5.7 billion) Stuttgart 21 project as a waste of money. Supporters say it will free up the city's packed center and help shorten journeys across Europe.

Merkel strongly backs the plan but it risks undermining her center-right coalition in state elections in Baden-Wuerttemberg next March. Latest polls indicated Merkel's party could loose its majority in the state for the first time in decades.

Stuttgart, a conservative and wealthy city of 600,000 inhabitants that mostly used to be known for the Porsches and Mercedes cars produced on its outskirts, has been rocked by a growing protest movement against the railway project in recent months.

Last week some 1,000 police officers used water cannons and pepper spray to break up a rally against Stuttgart 21 there, leaving 130 people injured. The violence caused an outrage across the country, and a day later more than 50,000 took to the streets.