Infrastructure Lessons

How to Build a Railway

Ein Arbeiter geht am 16.02.2016 in Düsseldorf (Nordrhein-Westfalen) im Tunnel zur U-Bahn-Station Schadowstraße über die Gleise. Die 3,4 Kilometer lange neue Wehrhahn-Linie startet am 21. Februar. Der Tunnel mit sechs unter- und zwei oberirdischen Haltestellen hat 843 Millionen Euro gekostet, fast 200 Millionen mehr als veranschlagt. Foto: Federico Gambarini/dpa [ Rechtehinweis: Verwendung weltweit, usage worldwide ]
A worker in the new Wehrhahn line tunnel in Düsseldorf.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Germany has struggled with large infrastructure projects but the successful completion of a stretch of railway track in one city offers lessons on how to avoid potential pitfalls in others.

  • Facts


    • A 3.4 kilometer stretch of railway track under the German city of Düsseldorf opens Saturday.
    • Germany has been plagued by problems with big construction projects.
    • Berlin’s new airport was due to open in 2011. It is now delayed until 2017.
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A stretch of railway track under the German city of Düsseldorf, will open Saturday, on time and just slightly over budget.

The 3.4 kilometer long railway track is one of the biggest construction projects recently completed in Germany and is a rare success in a country that has been plagued by high profile infrastructure fiascos.

Two of the most famous disasters of recent times are the new concert hall planned for the city of Hamburg, and the still delayed Berlin Brandenburg airport. But there are also other overruns. The railway tunnel in the west German city of Augsburg was budgeted at €80 million ($88 million), and it has already cost at least €170 million. And instead of opening in 2019, it won’t be open until 2022. The city tunnel in Magdeburg is also a long way from finished and will cost at least €100 million, instead of the originally budgeted €36 million. A project comprising street tunnels and underground railway in Karlsruhe cost €900 million – instead of €588 million.

In this climate, the Düsseldorf tunnel project manager, Gerd Wittkötter, is pleased with what he has achieved with the Wehrhahn line.

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