The Munich city council is spoiled for choice this Wednesday: Does it want more public transport instead of more traffic jams on the streets – but at the expense of enormous financial risks in the billions that the city cannot afford? Actually, the General Assembly should set the course for the construction of a new subway line, the U9. This should lead from the south across the city center to the Münchner Freiheit and help ensure that Munich is not suffocated by traffic.
The Greens, SPD and CSU factions have announced that they will vote for the U9. That would be a large majority. But even before the decision is made, the city treasury is now sounding the alarm with horrendous numbers: The U9 would probably cost the city 6.2 to 6.7 billion euros – and was simply “not financeable”. After all, the city still has other expensive tasks to fulfill, such as building schools and housing. This is what it says in a paper from the Treasury for the draft resolution for the city council. If the councils followed the vote of the Treasury, the U9 would have died with it.
What is not in the template, but could make the situation even more dramatic: what will become of the second main S-Bahn line, which has already become a disaster with a construction period up to 2037 and with a doubling of the planned costs? It is to be linked to the U9 at the main station. When the new S-Bahn tunnel is built, a stop for the U9 is to be built at the main station. If this is omitted, will the new main route, which has already been partially rescheduled, have to be rescheduled again? At the cost of further delays?
In any case, the paper from the house of City Treasurer Christoph Frey (SPD) cannot be surpassed in terms of clarity. Frey’s finance experts extrapolate that the U9, which is currently calculated at four billion euros, would probably cost nine to ten billion euros before it could go into operation at the end of the 2030s. For the hoped-for grants from the Free State and the federal government, there are currently “no concrete funding commitments, since the possible funding requirements are still unclear”. The city must expect to bear a large part of the costs itself. This is how the treasury comes to a good six billion euros, which could get stuck with the municipality.
Public transport instead of traffic jams – sounds good, but could be priceless
What Munich’s chief financial officer Frey had written down after the S-Bahn disaster is another piece of bad news for Mayor Dieter Reiter (SPD). Like almost all city council factions and the state government, Reiter relies on the massive expansion of local public transport. Even Prime Minister Markus Söder (CSU) is now spreading the originally more green slogan “public transport instead of traffic jams”. But without the U9 and with possible consequences for the second main route, this solution in Munich would become increasingly unlikely.
Strictly speaking, the city council is not supposed to decide on the U9 on Wednesday, but only on the construction of the new line at the main station, which will cost around 560 million euros. Technically, it wouldn’t make sense to dig and build the stop for the second main route – and a few years later to dig again in exactly the same place for a U9 stop. If so, then everything should be done in one go. But if the city now invests half a billion in the U9, then it will probably have to finish building the line. Or she sinks the money in the excavation pit at the main train station.
The finance department now wants to ensure that the city council does not release the money for the U9 stop. If the station at the main station is not built in the first place, the result would be that “the planning and implementation of the entire U9 line will also be terminated”. That is what it says clearly and unambiguously in the letter from the finance experts to the city council. It’s hard to imagine that the chamberlain hasn’t said the same thing to his party colleague and Lord Mayor Reiter.
Bavaria puts pressure on Berlin, but the federal government is silent
The finance department also calculates for the city council what the foreseeable expansion of local transport in Munich will cost in total by 2040: around 30 to 32 billion euros. Among other things, the extension of the U5 to Pasing and Freiham, the four-track expansion of the S8 between Daglfing and Johanneskirchen, various new tram routes and the second main route of the S-Bahn are planned.
With a “very good funding rate”, the Free State and the federal government would take on around 17 to 18 billion euros, writes the Treasury. The city would then have to carry 13 to 14 billion. “This sum cannot be financed in view of the already rapidly increasing debt of the state capital Munich.” The finance department also warns that a “good funding rate” from the state and federal government is unrealistic anyway. Because in this case, “for many years, the entire funding available from the federal government would flow to Munich”. With a realistic funding rate, the city’s share of the costs would increase significantly beyond the 13 to 14 billion euros mentioned.
Federal Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) and his house have so far not given any signals for funding the U9. And this despite the fact that the city and the Free State are pushing for such a signal. Bavaria’s Transport Minister Christian Bernreiter (CSU) says that the U9 can make an “important contribution” to the expansion of local public transport in Munich. “Therefore, as a free state, we support the state capital Munich in the best possible way in receiving funding from the federal government.”
In addition, Bernreiter has promised the city that the Free State will support the U9 financially if the federal government also gives money. The Free State also wants to pay if the hoped-for federal subsidy turns out to be lower than expected. “When determining the specific amount of funding, we will of course take into account the special importance of the U9,” says Bernreiter. In plain language: the Free State wants to go to its financial pain threshold.
However, that should hardly be enough to make the U9 financially viable for the city. And Federal Transport Minister Wissing said in a letter to Mayor Reiter on September 15 that they were “ready” to consider financial support for the U9. It could hardly be more non-binding.