Warsawa Centralna (c) INOUE Hirokazu
(more photos here)
I’ve never been a great fan of Warsaw’s main railway station, Warszawa Centralna. It an East European edition of the rabbit hole railway station architectural style, which in Britain produced stations such as the new Birmingham New Street and London’s Euston. After 26 years of planning, the building was put up in a rush between 1972 and 1975. Warsaw’s trams and buses patiently snaked around the enormous building site for three years. A final spurt of activity, and the building was opened with a ceremonial triumph in 1975, just in time for Brehzniev’s visit to Warsaw. For the next 15 years PKP tried the best it could to patch up the worst of the building’s faults.
The large booking hall and marbled underground passages were certainly impressive when the station was built. Although nowadays, the rash of kiosks that have sprung up since 1989, rather ruin the effect. Access to the platforms for able bodied passengers has never been easy, access for disabled customers is appalling. When it rains, water finds its way down to the lowest level. The lighting is harsh and unfriendly, yet the overall impression is dark and dingy. However, fundamentally Warsaw’s public transport masterplan is hugely flawed. The city has four key rail services which run into its centre: the WKD which serves an area to the North West of the City, the PKP suburban and stopping rail services, the PKP main line services and the metro. But instead all services coming together in one central station, their stations are strung out like beads on necklace two and a half kilometres long.
PKP would like to refurbish the station sometime in 2009, the Warsaw City Councillors – like most most local government in Poland no fans of rail – are thinking of moving the main line terminus out of central Warsaw all together. But the station does have its fans, one blogger writes (in Polish). We have a modern underground station in Warsaw – don’t laugh – if only we gave it a good scrub and drove out the drunks, the building again could be the pride of Warsaw.
I was interested to learn that PKP Intercity are opening up the former Government VIP lounge at Warszawa Centralna to certain categories of its first class passengers. Somehow, in the building’s present state, and with the Marriot Hotel just across the road, I can’t see the station becoming a preferred venue for business meetings just yet. As for me, I prefer Stasz Pruszinski’s Radio Cafe, a short walk away in ul. Nowogrodzka, for my serious meetings – great ambiance, good food and amazing customer service. The restaurant is quite small and, although I have never had a problem in finding a seat, please don’t tell anyone else. The place is popular enough as it is!