New ICE route offers an opportunity for Ulm

New ICE route offers an opportunity for Ulm

fIn the past, train passengers got a Ulm not a good impression. Perhaps they had seen Ulm Minster from the train window as they entered; but when they left the station in the direction of the city center, the first sight fell on a cheerless station forecourt and the “Line One” pub – favorite place to hang out for many well-known Ulm drunkards and friends of the Gold-Ochsen beer.

Little of that can be seen today. Over the past decade, the city has been preparing thoroughly for the commissioning of the new ICE route Stuttgart–Wendlingen–Ulm and invested 600 million euros.

Nobody in Germany benefits more from the new, fast route over the Swabian Jura than the almost 130,000 inhabitants of Ulm. Only 14 minutes travel time will be saved before the ICE route is finally commissioned, but when the Stuttgart train station is finished in 2025, Ulm will be as close to Stuttgart city center as a suburb like Degerloch or Sillenbuch with a travel time of 27 minutes.

“For us, the new line was an important impetus for urban development. In view of this speed, there is only an hour’s drive between the lecture hall in Ulm’s Science City and the University of Stuttgart. For city dwellers, these are short distances. There is no longer any reason to drive from Ulm to Stuttgart by car,” says Ulm Mayor Gunter Czisch from the CDU.

Baden-Württemberg politicians at the opening of the new ICE route, including Winfried Kretschmann (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen), Prime Minister of Baden-Württemberg (2nd from right) and the CEO of Deutsche Bahn AG, Richard Lutz (3rd from right)

Baden-Württemberg politicians at the opening of the new ICE route, including Winfried Kretschmann (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen), Prime Minister of Baden-Württemberg (2nd from right) and the CEO of Deutsche Bahn AG, Richard Lutz (3rd from right)

Image: dpa

In the referendum on the project in 2011, 69.1 percent of Ulm residents voted in favor of continuing construction. The station forecourt at the east exit has been redesigned, the underground car park offers plenty of space, the Science City is connected with a new tram line, and a new bus station is currently being built. With the Sedelhöfe, a new business and office district was created right at the entrance to the city centre.

“All office space rented”

Construction is still going on in the Wengen district further to the east. One can argue about the architecture of the Sedelhöfe, the lack of greenery on the new Albert-Einstein-Platz. Also about whether “Five Guys” are really the best use of the quarter. Economically, however, the concept seems to be successful: because right next to the new branch of the fast food restaurant it says: “All office space rented”. Czisch says that the fast train connections and today’s home office options make medium-sized cities like Ulm attractive locations for company headquarters. “Not everyone comes to Ulm voluntarily, but hardly anyone leaves. Because we own a lot of land, investors can quickly start building with us.”

There are numerous production sites of successful companies in the Danube Valley, and new medical technology companies and AI research laboratories have settled in Ulm, also due to the improved transport infrastructure. In 2011, the city began urban renewal and relocated a river, then the Sedelhöfe were built. With the State Garden Show 2030 and a new regional S-Bahn network, the ecological urban redevelopment should be completed.

Anyone who uses the west exit of the station will find themselves surrounded by cranes and gravel trucks: a new residential area is being built there, the so-called poets’ quarter. The “Gleisimbiss Schnell Liebe” and dilapidated commercial buildings will give way to a modern residential area, the poets’ quarter. While the city since the start of construction of Stuttgart 21 did all its homework, the railways failed to renovate the station – the building breathes the spirit of the 1950s: old-fashioned timetable notices, a bratwurst stand with impertinent emissions, stairwells tiled in pastel colors.

Fundamental redevelopment of the station failed

The railway only donated a few buckets of paint for the tunnel under the tracks. Originally, the station was to have a continuous, barrier-free basement that would connect Schillerstrasse and the poets’ quarter in the west with the underground passage of the Sedelhöfe in the east and the city center. But that also failed because a declaration of intent to renovate the station was not signed by the former railway boss Rüdiger Grube and the city of Ulm did not have the idea of ​​making the station renovation part of the financing agreement of Stuttgart 21 at the time.

This is one of the reasons why there are now neither escalators nor elevators on the platforms for the modern ICE trains. “What Deutsche Bahn is doing here,” says Ulm SPD member of the state parliament Martin Rivoir, a self-confessed Stuttgart 21 fan, “is a silly prank.” In mid-November, Rivoir wrote to Richard Lutz, the board member of the Deutsche Bahn, but he didn’t get a reasonable answer.

A spokesman for the Stuttgart 21 project company says that the station has been made “fit for the overall commissioning in many steps since 2013”. Deutsche Bahn has invested 300 million euros in new track technology, and from 2024 onwards another 30 million euros will be spent on the renovation of the station. The conversion of the Stuttgart train station costs the railways ten times as much. In Ulm, 16,000 additional passengers are expected soon because of the new route. Mayor Czisch says that Ulm’s main station has already reached the capacity limit – if the railways don’t change anything, it will be the “bottleneck in local and long-distance traffic”.

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