After 11-Year Hiatus, Contractors Agree to Fund Completion of Ill-Fated German Project
Three members of a joint venture have agreed to pay Cologne municipality, Germany, and its transportation authority KVB $216 million each in compensation for damage caused in March 2009 by the collapse of underground work under the city’s archive building during construction of a new metro line.
The companies also agreed to complete, at their own expense, the work on the ill-fated underground track crossover chamber, which has stood idle since the collapse.
After 11 years, KVB, the city and the contractors agreed on the out-of-court settlement “to avoid another long legal dispute” over the cause of collapse which “has not been conclusively clarified,” according to Thomas Birtel, CEO of STRABAG SE. The company owns Ed. Züblin A.G., one of the metro contractors. Continuing the dispute "would probably” have dragged on for 10-15 more years, he added.
Wayss & Freytag Ingenieurbau, a subsidiary of Netherlands-based Royal BAM Group N.V., and Bilfinger SE are equal partners in the metro joint venture, sharing the $650-million compensation payment.
Ground beneath the Cologne archive building collapsed in March 2009, causing two deaths and the destruction of rare and valued documents. Crews were building an underground track switching chamber.
Twin tunnels on a new 3.9-kilometer north-south line from the central station down to Bonntor via Heumarkt, Severinstrasse and Chlodwigplatz had been completed. The Heumarkt-Severinstrasse section never opened.
In a criminal prosecution over the collapse, a KVB manager was reportedly given an eight-month suspended sentence in 2018, while three other people were found innocent of liability. The judge cited faulty slurry trench wall construction as the cause of collapse.
The joint venture won the $420-million turnkey contract for the southern section of tunnels and six stations in 2003. Bored tunnel construction ended some four years later.