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25 February 2004

Rector: "Education Needs Bridges"

Rector Prof. Dr. Peter Hommelhoff is passionately in favour of the fifth Neckar crossing to improve access to the Neuenheimer Feld and the University campus—Why the University intends to contribute funding for the planned environmental compatibility study

In the last few days, Rector Prof. Dr. Peter Hommelhoff has once again passionately advocated a new, fifth Neckar crossing to improve access to the Neuenheimer Feld campus. Over and against the University Greens Group, he set out in detail the arguments of the University of Heidelberg in favour of this infrastructural improvement. The immediate motivation for his remarks was the presentation of a list of signatures supporting the Group's opposition to plans by the University to contribute funding for the necessary environmental compatibility study.

At the request of the Mayor Heidelberg, Beate Weber, Hommelhoff has now given his agreement to the funding in writing, thus confirming that the three major institutions with a stake in the Neuenheimer Feld—the University of Heidelberg, Heidelberg's University hospitals and the German Cancer Research Centre—will be sharing the costs for the study. "Let me explain to you and the 2,040 signatories why this is money well spent," said the Rector.

Hommelhoff: "On the question of how the Neuenheimer Feld should best be provided with traffic access across the river Neckar, the City of Heidelberg has commissioned a report by the Max Planck Institute. The gist of the report is that the environmental issues involved can only be cleared up by an environmental compatibility study. In other words, this study is the indispensable foundation for deciding whether a crossing is feasible or not. On this same basis the large majority of the members of the Municipal Council, including the Greens, has resolved that such a study should be undertaken. So I am rather surprised that the University Green Group has collected these signatures. The votes against the study all came from the SPD, all the other parties were in favour."

"We need this environmental compatibility study to establish whether we can join up the campus via a fifth bridge across the river or whether we need a link-up to the north." Hommelhoff pointed out to the representatives of the University Greens Group that the northern link-up on the edge of the Neuenheimer Feld has already aroused considerable political protest. A demonstration on University Square involving 20 tractors was a token of this protest. "In other words, the whole decision is one that causes ill-feeling among certain sectors of the population. So the question is, do we really need this link-up?"

The University Greens Group have indicated alternatives in the shape of trams and additional usage of the parking spaces on Neuenheimer Feld. "Let me say once again very clearly that the plans of the University, in concert with the hospitals and the Cancer Research Centre as major users and the Max Planck Institutes and the Teacher Training College as further institutions based there, are based on three considerations:

  1. We will have to make use of the parking space anyway. In June the Krehl hospital will be moving to the Neuenheimer Feld and then the existing number of parking spaces will no longer be sufficient. That implies that we have to redeploy the existing spaces as of now, which means fewer parking slots for allocation in accordance with certain criteria to be agreed on with the representatives of the staff working there.
  2. Access to the Neuenheimer Feld via public transport will have to be improved. In agreement with the City and the Heidelberg Local Transport Services, we feel that this should take the form of an additional tram service. In the last few weeks and months, the University has played a significant part in ensuring that a tram line can be installed along the so-called South Edge. The Cancer Research Centre has voiced its fears that sensitive apparatus located along the planned front-edge tram line might be damaged by tremors. Accordingly, we have agreed on an exchange of plots with the Centre. The Centre will be given plots from the land at the disposal of the University and can hence take its highly sensitive apparatus away from the tram line. We have already agreed on this point. We have done our bit, now it is up to the Cancer Research Centre to represent its position to the City and the Local Transport Service.
  3. The third element in this design is individual traffic. This is indispensable, above all for patient care. We are the central hospital for an area with a radius of 40 to 60 miles around Heidelberg. All complicated cases are referred to us, and that is the way it should be. We need this in the first place not to make money but to attract patients of interest in research and teaching. We cannot train our medical students if we have no patients. That means that the University Hospital Complex has to be readily accessible so that we can continue with teaching and research in medicine and the life sciences. Here we have to bear in mind that the life sciences are the best that the University has to offer. In this field we are up among the leaders worldwide. Of especial note here is the link-up with the Cancer Research Centre."

Hommelhoff also referred to the heavy ion installation at present under construction and needed for the innovative treatment of cancer patients. This installation will be unique in all Germany. "This means that there will be patients coming here from all over Germany once the installation has started up." In addition, building on the Comprehensive Cancer Centre will in all probability be commencing this year. "This will assemble cancer treatment expertise unequalled in scope anywhere else in Europe."

For all this the Neuenheimer Feld requires individual transport. "We cannot expect the patients to come here by tram, nor with buses or on the regional overland railway." Many of these patients are severely ill and have to be driven here by their relatives.

The University Greens Group had raised the question: "Cannot 150,000 euros be made better use of?" Hommelhoff countered that so far no tutorials have been discontinued for this reason and there have been no cutbacks in book buying either. The University of Heidelberg is deploying resources that it has no right to deploy for books: "This is not money that the state has placed at our disposal." Hommelhoff explained that the money comes from third parties, from private sponsors or interest profits. Nor does the University have to foot the bill on its own. "By my reckoning the sum we will need to contribute is somewhere between 25,000 and 35,000 euros."

This is an important investment in terms of the necessity of achieving clarity about how things will develop. "We cannot drag our feet on this. After all, we are vacating the Bergheim district of its University buildings as quickly as we can." The Neuenheimer Feld will be greatly extended. The University institutions to be built there have in some cases been at the planning stage for 50 years. "Everything planned 50 years ago is now due to materialise all at once. And the traffic and transport infrastructure just will not take it. These are the problems we face. And all I can say is that the City of Heidelberg has not proposed anything more convincing as yet."

"Education Not Bridges" was the motto of the signature campaign. The cry that Hommelhoff pits against this is that "Education Needs Bridges". The environmental compatibility study will show whether a bridge is feasible. "We cannot wait any longer," Hommelhoff insists.

Please address any inquiries to
Dr. Michael Schwarz
Press Officer of the University of Heidelberg
phone: 06221/542310, fax: 54317
michael.schwarz@rektorat.uni-heidelberg.de
http://www.uni-heidelberg.de/presse/index.html


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