Speech by Tom Gillesberg to the
Maglev conference in Munich on February 13, 2008
Instead of waiting for good and necessary things to happen, it is a good idea to start the process yourself. So when I ran in the Copenhagen mayoral election in November 2005, I campaigned for Copenhagen to offer to host a new Bretton Woods conference, in order to reorganize the international financial system, and that Copenhagen should become the center of a Northern European Transrapid maglev system. Since that time, using the momentum of the positive experience of the recently built great bridge projects, and the LaRouche movement-inspired Eurasian Land-Bridge proposal, the Schiller Institute in Denmark has succeeded in causing such a public debate, and generated such excitement about maglev and new great bridge/tunnel projects, that these great infrastructure projects are being considered by the Danish government, and we have started to take this excitement into Germany.
In the summer of 2006, we printed the first of a series of campaign newspapers, in runs of 50,000 copies, equivalent to one percent of the Danish population, in order to put concrete proposals on the table, that could rally the population, and the pressure the political elite. In the paper, we presented the Eurasian Land-Bridge, and suggested beginning the construction of a Danish and European maglev net by building a maglev line connecting Copenhagen and Århus, the two biggest Danish cities, via a new Danish bridge going across the Kattegat Sea – a Kattegat Bridge.
In December 2006, in the midst of the negotiations between Denmark and Germany about the construction of the Femern Belt Bridge, and with strong forces in Germany lobbying against it, we proposed that Denmark, if necessary, should take the full financial risk and build it alone, and then include a maglev line that could connect Copenhagen and Hamburg in 40-50 minutes.
In March 2007, the debate in Denmark then exploded. As a response to German foot-dragging on the Femern Belt-project, the biggest Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, had a lead story about a Danish traffic engineer’s proposal to build the Kattegat Bridge instead of the Femern Belt Bridge. Instantaneously, this became a big discussion point in the Danish media. The next day, Jyllands-Posten had as a major item on its webpage for 24 hours, about the Schiller Institute’s proposal for a maglev line over the Kattegat Bridge, that would reduce the travel time between the two biggest cities to 25 minutes. The proposal got coverage in other media as well, and even though few dared publically support building a maglev, suddenly many agreed that the time had come for having some sort of a Danish high-speed train network.
On April 12, we presented the idea of a Danish maglev net and Kattegat Bridge to the Traffic Committee of the Danish parliament, and got a very interested and lively response. The committee asked the Traffic Minister for a response, but got a negative one. He thought that a maglev net and the bridge would cost too much, citing the fact that a maglev line had not been built between Hamburg and Berlin.
In the same period, we campaigned to make sure an agreement between Denmark and Germany to build the Femern Belt Bridge would be reached, with our campaign newspapers, and demos outside the German Embassy and Transportation Ministry. On June 29, it was finally decided to build the Femern Belt Bridge, but with Denmark taking the main economic responsibility. The construction of the bridge will begin in 2012, and be ready in 2018.
On July 30, Jyllands-Posten prominently published an op-ed by me, stating that the issue at hand was to have a coherent conception of the infrastructure we need for the next 50 years. We need the Femern Belt Bridge, the Kattegat Bridge, and a bridge/tunnel linking Denmark and Sweden at Helsingør (Shakespeare’s Elsinore). Over and above these three bridge projects to be built by the government, and repaid by user fees, the Danish infrastructure budget has to be tripled, in order to do what was needed -- to maintain and build crucial road and rail infrastructure, and establish a great new maglev net, beginning with the connection from Copenhagen to Århus, which over time, should include all of Denmark, with connections to Stockholm, Oslo and Hamburg, and from there, to The Eurasian Land-Bridge. We should think ahead, and be the first to use the new maglev technology, instead of being the last to use old high speed trains.
On October 3, local and regional politicians from Jutland arranged a public conference in Copenhagen on the issue of building the Kattegat Bridge, with most of the political parties attending. It was then clear that the Kattegat Bridge was on the political agenda, and the question now is if it will be with, or without, maglev.
On October 24, Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen called a national election (one day before the Schiller Institute was to testify in the Danish parliament on the global financial crisis, and LaRouche’s proposal for a New Bretton Woods financial system) and I, together with three other activists from the Schiller Institute, ran as independent candidates with the slogan: “After the financial crash – Maglev across the Kattegat.” Our campaign posters, which pictured a maglev and bridge, were visible everywhere in the three largest Danish cities, and, together with 60,000 copies of a special election newspaper, they generated media attention, and a huge buzz in the population about a financial crash, Kattegat Bridge and maglev trains.
During the election campaign, we were the only ones to address the global financial crisis, while everybody else argued how well things were. Now, of course, things have changed. The economic experts are lining up, using the international financial crisis to argue that the government should reduce public expenditures. This is reflected in the recently proposed budget by the government, which actually proposes to delay a series of already agreed to infrastructure projects, and forcing the public sector to freeze investments.
But public support for the big projects is growing, to a degree that politicians are beginning to become more courageous. The Danish parliament has just agreed to spend a limited amount of funds for a screening of the Kattegat Bridge, and a new public hearing on the project just took place near Århus. When the question of maglev trains were brought up, the mayor of Århus, Nicolai Wammen, stated that all he knows is that the bridge should include high-speed trains, and it has to be studied if it should be ICE-style or maglev.
While we work hard to increase the support for building these projects in Denmark, we also hope to help get Germany going maglev, which will reciprocally help the campaign in Denmark. Twelve Danish activists spent a week in Hamburg mobilizing for a maglev line between Hamburg and Copenhagen. During meetings I had there, I experienced excitement and support for the idea. I also learned that the Hamburg Senate is on record wanting to be part of a maglev line. Were a maglev line between Hamburg and Berlin to be built, a maglev line from Hamburg to Copenhagen would not only reduce the travel time between the two cities to 50 minutes, but also the travel time between Copenhagen and Berlin to just 90 minutes. It would also disarm the one big argument against building the Transrapid in Denmark: “If the technology is so good, why don’t the Germans use it themselves?” The construction of a Munich line will also greatly help show the benefits of maglev.
Ten years from now, these lines could all be in operation, and the first part of the Danish maglev net a reality. This would finally establish the European starting point for a Eurasian Land-Bridge maglev network.
Let’s work hard to make it happen.