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New bridge endangers world heritage status


A new bridge is to be built in the “World Heritage Upper Middle Rhein Valley”. The bridge will stand north of St. Goar and St. Goarhausen, near the Loreley, in an area named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2002. The cost is estimated at 40 million euro with the next alternative, a tunnel, estimated at 70 million euro. Most harshly affected will be the idyllic river landscape. The planned construction also threatens the existence of the ferry services on the river.

In the 33rd Session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee from 22 through 30 June 2009 in Sevilla, Spain, the BUND in a letter on the issue stressed its opposition to the planned bridge in the “World Heritage Upper Middle Rhein Valley”. The BUND is known as a conservation organization, recognized by law, and has called for the promotion of ferry services and their incorporation into public transportation infrastructure.

The BUND criticized the construction of the bridge, citing the enormous change in the historical landscape. The planned bridge would have numerous negative consequences; such as, an increase in traffic, higher fuel consumption, addition routes and traffic connections and significant noise pollution. These negative effects are not confined only to the Rhein Valley, but also impact areas up and down the river. The alternative, a tunnel, would also generate large quantities of debris.

Dr. Bernhard Braun (BUND Chairman Rheinland-Pfalz) said, “One should be able to cross the Rhein River in many places, and do so quickly and inexpensively or if possible, free and at any time. This could be on foot, by bike or car, this is particularly important for commuters, suppliers, tourists and residents.” The ferries are an integral part of the Upper Middle Rhein Valley and also serve as a tourist attraction and should be preserved as such. Mattias Boller (BUND Regional-Chair Koblenz) added, “The State of Rheinland-Pfalz has promised in its management plan to support the operation of the ferries. However, this has not been the case. Planning the bridge is contradictory to the objective. We call for a consistent implementation of the management plan.”

The BUND asks for the incorporation of the ferries of the “World Heritage Upper Middle Rhein Valley” into the public transportation system and to be made free to as many users as possible. Also, given the tight financial situation of public finances, the Middle Rhein needs a quick and flexible solution. Dr. Braun explained, “It is clear from the interest on the debt-financed bridge, that only the ferry service is financially viable.” The BUND has therefore submitted suggestions for the direct implementation of a sustainable transportation concept. For example, in addition to the free ferry service, users should be asked to acquire an annual transport card. Even tourists should be able to receive a bonus card (i.e. Middle Rhein Valley Card) to have discounted or free use of the ferries.

This approach would have the advantage that it could be implemented immediately and with little investment capital. The system could be quickly adapted to meet new needs and there would be no threat to the World Heritage status.

Strengthening the Rhein passages through the expansion of ferry services and the efficient and more decentralized crossing facilities for pedestrians and cyclists means to both people and nature, an avoidance of traffic noise and exhaust pollution in the valley and the preservation of the historic landscape and its historical “ferry”.

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