A crosscutting issue
Indeed it is - the line crosses the precious site of Thüringer Wald. The most problematic part of this route is the section from Ebensfeld to Erfurt which is a 122 km long newly constructed double-track high speed line which will be operable for speeds up to 300 km/h.
In 1996 work already started for the small and unproblematic northern section from Wümberg (Illmenau east) to Erfurt. This section is mostly routed parallel to the existing highway line A71. The costs for the line section from Nürnberg-Ebensfeld to Erfurt have also increased significantly. As mentioned above the line is projected to pass through an area which is very precious and valuable in terms of nature and tourism. It intersects the Thüringer Wald and is therefore heavily criticised by environmental NGOs as well as the local Green Party.
The main points raised are the disregard of existing alternatives that would have had a significantly less negative environmental impact in terms of land use and ecology than the current project followed by the Deutsche Bundesbahn AG. Additionally, it would be 67% cheaper. In fact due to the hilly landscape the high speed line will have an additional 50% of engineer construction works, such as viaducts and tunnels.
The alternatives that are on the table would have been the partial upgrade of the existing line and/or the upgrade of the whole existing network in Saxony. Opponents like the BUND claim that in terms of a target of 4 hours of travel time from Berlin to Munich it is not necessary to construct the high speed line through the Thüringer Wald. This target could also be achieved using the existing and already upgraded/newly constructed sections.
Furthermore, the alternative of an integrated network solution instead of one high-speed line for the region of Erfurt, Halle, Leipzig, Chemnitz, Plauen and Nürenberg would be much more suitable to link these cities to the international transport network.
A very substantial alternative regarding the connection between Nürnberg and Erfurt would be to unbundle freight and passenger transport along this line. The long-distance freight transport could be operated along an existing parallel line that runs from Nürnberg via Marktredwitz and Plauen to Leipzig. This line has the advantage of free capacity and is even better for freight transport due to its relatively level stretches. Passenger transport could be operated on a modified line mainly based on upgraded sections between Lichtenfels, Coburg, Suhl and Illmenau. The existing tracks would have to be upgraded and only small sections in between would have to be newly constructed. This alternative would have less environmental impact and would save 3.3 bn euro compared to the current project. The loss of 6-11 minutes in reduced travel time would clearly be compensated by the linking up of the regional centres to an international line.
The tunnels are also planned to be constructed without a dividing wall. This would mean that passenger trains and freight trains would not be able to use the tunnel at the same time. This would basically lead to the complete stop of freight trains during the day, which would lead to a completely nonsensical situation.
In order to push for the timely completion of the whole section from Nürnberg via Erfurt to Leipzig a parliamentary circle of supporters was established by parliamentarians of the CSU and the SPD. This circle aimed to promote the need for this section in both a national and a supranational context, and carried out lobbying and information activities at a regional as well as national level.
Plan of the Deutsche Bundesbahn AG Project Erfurt – Ebensfeld