Information on the planning approval process for Deutsche Bahn construction projects
Each and every project involving a major change to an operating railway system is preceded by a formal administrative process in which private and public concerns are considered in depth and weighed against each other. At the heart of this process is an examination of all the technical and legal aspects relevant to the project. Objections from affected parties are also included and assessed.
Application to the key planning authority
The process begins with an application describing the project in full relevant detail. This "plan", which will frequently fill several folders, is issued by the responsible DB project sponsor (e. g. DB Netz AG or DB Station & Service AG) and sent to the German Federal Railway Authority (EBA), the key planning authority.
The EBA sends the files submitted to the inspectorate with regional responsibility (usually the regional council) for the following stages in the process.
Enquiry procedure and consideration
An enquiry takes place at the outset of key planning, for the purpose of obtaining information on the specific content and possible effects of the construction project. During this stage in the process, DB's plans are open to inspection by the public for one month in every community which could be affected by the project, following a public announcement.
People and recognised groups affected by the planned construction project have an opportunity to submit justified objections and statements to the inspectorate or community in writing for up to two weeks after the end of the inspection period.
At the same time, authorities whose field of responsibility is affected by the project are invited to submit statements.
Should it not be possible to overcome objections by the affected parties, the inspectorate will arrange a hearing with all the stakeholders (the project sponsor, authorities, groups and private individuals) who have raised objections or submitted statements, in order to examine them. The objective is to complete the examination no later than three months after expiry of the period for raising objections, with a particular view to expediting the process.
Statement by the inspectorate
On completion of the enquiry, the EBA, as the key planning authority, receives all the objections and statements and a concluding statement by the inspectorate, summarising the results of the enquiry and examination, statements by the authorities in question and the objections.
Planning approval decision
The EBA examines the documents from the enquiry thoroughly. It then approves the plan, allowing for the statements and objections received, i.e. it issues key planning approval, possibly qualified by requirements and subsidiary conditions, which entitles the project sponsor to start work on the project. This constitutes formal planning permission for the project.
However, rejection of the planned project is possible after consideration of all the relevant factors.
Additional information for local residents
Railway projects require explanation and interpretation, due to their complexity. Local residents affected by a planned measure have a final opportunity to put their questions and objections to the project sponsor before the key planning authority makes its decision.
In order to satisfy the need for information beyond the formal statutory process, DB is currently developing further tools to be used to complement the key planning and enquiry processes, on the basis of experience with other major projects.