Best and worst station revamps


Lodz Fabryczna station as ‘improved’ in the 1960s.

Photo from Informator Biura Projektow Kolejowych w Lodzi by J. Boryczka

(Click on the image to see more Communist-era railway architecture photos on the Klub Starych Dobrych Czasow website.)

Work has begun on dismantling some prefabricated buildings at the old Lodz Fabryczna railway terminus – the start of a 10 billion PLN project for PKP to relinquish the 1865 station building and build a brand new railway station… underground! Lodz is – in terms of population – Poland’s third largest city. It was the second… but many of its young generation are now working on building sites in the UK. So it is interesting to look at PKP’s plans for its new station and compare them with the latest practice in the construction and renewal of major railway station around the world.

Bejing South Railway Station

(Click image to see this and other photographs of Bejing South on the Amazing Architecture website.)

Bejing South opened in August 2008. It was designed by Terry Farrell & Partners with Arup as structural and services engineer and Atkins as railway engineer. The station has 24 platforms and a capacity of 30,000 passengers per hour – 242 million passengers per year. It will serve high speed trains which will travel at up to 350 km/h. The passenger concourse is on the ground floor and escalators take passengers up to the platforms at first floor level. Access for vehicles and car parking is on the next level above. The new station replaces an earlier construction dating back to Victorian times. Bejing South is undoubtedly the most exciting new railway station design in the world.

Gare du Nord in Paris. Photo by Ignis.

(Click to see original on Wikipedia and for details of licensing.)

Gare du Nord is the most important railway station in Paris. It serves 180 million passengers a year and is the busiest station in Europe and the third busiest in the whole world. The first station on this site was built in 1846. By 1854 the station was already to small and it was demolished in 1860 . The stone facade was preserved and rebuilt at Lille. The present station was designed by Jacques Hittorff. The choice of architect was made by the chairman of Chemin de Fer du Nord, Baron James de Rothschild. The support pillars inside the station were cast at Alston & Gourley’s ironworks in Glasgow. Since it opened in 1864, the buildings and railway tracks have been extended several times. In 1975 Gare du Nord was registered as a historic monument. Today it is a major transport hub which is served by Eurostar, Thalys and TGV high speed trains; local services are provided by RER lines D and B and Metro lines 2, 4 and 5 There is also a Velib bicycle sharing facility.

Recycled Atocha Railway Station, Madrid. Photo Logan 5.

(Click image to see – and give your opinion on – the original photograph on Pixdaus.)

Madrid’s Atocha Station is a major hub on Spain’s railway network. It is served by AVE high speed trains, ordinary main line trains and the Madrid metro. Excluding metro journeys, the complex serves some 80 million passengers a year.

The first railway station on the site was opened in 1851. After a fire, it was rebuilt and reopened in 1892. The architect for the replacement was Alberto de Palacio Elissagne, who collaborated with Gustave Eiffel and Henry St James on the engineering aspects of the design. The arch of the glass roof is slightly pointed, perhaps inspired by the arch of London’s St Pancras station opened 24 years earlier in 1868.

This complex of railway tracks expanded through the years. 1985 marked the start of a major rebuilding project. In 1992, the original building was taken out of service as a train shed, and converted into a concourse with shops, cafés, a nightclub and a 4,000 m² covered tropical garden. A much larger train shed designed in the modern minimalist style by Rafael Moneo has been constructed behind the old building in the area that was formerly the station throat. There are separate mainline and commuter stations as well as a 4 track underground station for trains travelling across the city.

Part of the platform level at Berlin Hauptbahnhof. From a photograph by Daniel Schwen.

(Click image to see original on Wikipedia Commons and for details of licensing.)

Berlin Hauptbahnhof is the most important station in Berlin and has become the city’s most important transport node. It provides facilities for East – West mainline services (served by platforms raised above the concourse) and the new North South rail-link (served by platforms in the basement). It also provides facilities to a number of Stadtbahn services and is linked to a new branch of the Berlin metro. It is used by some 110 million passengers each year.

The first station to be built on the site was Lehrter Bahnhof, the Berlin terminus of the Magdeburg Halberstädter – the Hannover – Lehrte – Berlin railway. It was was designed in the French Neo-Renaissance style by Alfred Lent, Bertold Scholz, and Gottlieb Henri Lapierre. It was opened in 1871.

During WW II the station was severely damaged. After the war, the building was patched up. However, the postwar division of Berlin spelled the end for the station’s mainline status. On 28 August 1951, the final train departed from Lehrter Bahnhof. On 22 April 1958 the main entrance was dynamited. Only the Lehrter Stadtbahn station remained, serving suburban services crossing over the north end of Lehrter Bahnhof on a bridge. Demolition work was completed in the summer of 1959.

The Stadtbahnh station survived the war intact, and in 1987 was restored at a cost of about DM 10 million and was listed as a historic building, However, despite its listed status, in 2002, Lehrter Stadtbahnhof was to meet with the same fate as Lehrter Bahnhof – it was demolished. Now a new grand central station has been built on the site of the both stations. The design of the new station – a powerful symbol of a reunited Germany – is by Hamburg architect, Meinhard von Gerkan.

Zurich Hauptbahnhof from the east. Photo by Ikiwaner.

(Click image to see the original photograph on Wikipedia and for details of licensing.)

Zurich Hauptbahnhof is the busiest railway station in Switzerland and is served by trains travelling to Spain, France, Italy, Austria, Germany and beyond. It is the most important hub in the city’s integrated transport system. There are 20 terminal tracks on the concourse level of which 16 are used by main line services and 4 for local suburban S-Bahn services. There is also a lower level containing 200 shops and further platforms. On its southern side are two tracks used by the Sihltal Zürich Uetliberg Bahn commuter railway, and on the northern side there are 4 tracks used by local suburban and S-Bahn services. Another 4 tracks are under construction between the two for the new cross-city ‘diameter. The station directly links to 4 tram and bus stations. On sundays, when most shops in Zurich are shut, it becomes the busiest place in the city. It is used by some 110 million passengers each year.

The first station on the site was built by Gustav Albert Wegmann for the Swiss Northern Railway and opened in 1847. By 1871 it was already to small and it was demolished. It was replaced by a stone and steel train shed spanning 6 tracks fronted by a magnificent neoclassical headquarters designed by Jakob Friedrich Wanner. By 1902, the station was again too small, the train tracks were pushed back. The last two segments of the train shed were cut back – the remainder became a baggage handling area. Freed from the constraints of the old train shed four more tracks were added; another 6 were to follow in due course. With no more space to grow at ground level, further expansion of the station is planned to take place underground.

The new St Pancras in August 2007. Photo

(Click image to see the photograph in its original context and read an informative history of the station on World Architecture News.)

St Pancras – the subject of the most dramatic and expensive railway station modernisation project in Great Britain – almost failed to make it to the 21st century. In the 1960s, a run down British Railways – desperately short of cash – planned to run services terminating at St Pancras and Kings Cross stations into a single new station, demolish the old buildings and use the land so released for property development.

Today, thanks to a £800 million refurbishment, St Pancras International, as the revamped station has been dubbed, is the most prestigious station in London. Eurostar trains run from St Pancras, over HS1 – Britain’s only high speed line, to Paris and Brussels. Deutsche Bahn wants to run ICE trains To St Pancras from Cologne and other locations in Germany.

St Pancras International Station is now one of London’s major landmarks, and an important gateway to the Continent. International services run from a new security compound within the historic train shed. Domestic services run from an extension built in the former station throat area. The new station includes 60 shops occupying 82,000 sq ft (7,600 sq m) of retail space and is used by 45 million passengers annually. King’s Cross St. Pancras is also the busiest station on the London Underground, serving over 70 million passengers a year..

Site clearance for the construction of St Pancras Station and the accompanying Somers Town Goods Depot started in 1864. Construction of the station foundations did not start until July 1866. A competition was held for the design of the station hotel and railway offices in May 1865. In January 1866, Sir George Scott’s Gothic revival design – costing £315,000 (£21.4 million at 2010 adjusted for inflation) – was chosen. The Midland Railway board was by no means unanimous, Scott’s design was by far the most expensive. In the end a British compromise was negotiated – Scott’s design was adopted, but two floor levels were lopped off the office block and one floor off the hotel!

The rest of the station was designed by William Henry Barlow, chief engineer of the Midland Railway Company, with help from Roland Ordish. Their slightly pointed train shed complements the Gothic arches of Scott’s hotel building. It has a span of 232 ft (74 m), rises 100 ft (30 m) high and is 700 ft (213 m) long. At the time, their train shed was heralded as an engineering marvel – enclosing the largest unsupported indoor space in the world. The station opened on October 1st, 1868. The eastern wing of Scott’s hotel building opened in May 1873, the rest followed in Spring 1876.

The passing years were not kind to St Pancras. In 1923, the Midland Railway became part of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway. The LMS decided to focus on Euston as it major London terminus. The magnificent hotel was closed in 1935; its closure hastened by the Great Depression. The once great rooms were partitioned turned into offices. The station experienced a brief revival in the 1960s when electrification work on the West Coast Main Line saw trains to Manchester and Glasgow running from St Pancras. These services were switched back to Euston in 1966 when the works were complete and British Railways announced its intention to demolish the station.

But it was not to be. A group of preservationists, who had fought long and hard the lost the battle to save Euston’s Doric Arch, were determined not to be defeated again. Their campaign under the flag of the Victorian Society persuaded Lord Kennet, Parliamentary Secretary at the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, to grant the station and its former hotel building Grade 1 listed status.

In the 1980s the hotel building failed a fire inspection, British Railways closed the offices contained therein and the building lay empty save for occasional film makers who relished the gloomy and neglected atmosphere. In 1990s the tide turned – a £10 million project financed jointly by British Rail and English Heritage made the building weatherproof and commenced the restoration of the station exterior. The work was interrupted by the privatisation of British Rail, but soon plans were put forward to make St Pancras the London terminus of the much-delayed Channel Tunnel link (later dubbed HS1). In 2001, work commenced on the complete transformation of the station according to designs by Norman Foster, later modified by Alistair Lansley.

The rebuilt station was opened by the Queen in November 2007. It has 15 platforms. Domestic services use 4 tracks that finish at the southern edge of the western side of the Norman Foster extension and 3 tracks that finish at the same point on its eastern side. The 6 tracks in the middle extend back into the Barlow – Ordish train shed and are used exclusively by international services. Two tracks on a lower level are used by Thameslink services.

The former Midland Hotel is undergoing a thorough rebuilding. It is expected to open in late 2011 as a 244 bedroom 5 star hotel with 67 private apartments.

More St Pancras links:

Station modernisation best practice

Forgive me dwelling so long on St Pancras, but its story has many unusual twists and the new building does encompass many aspects of major station modernisation best practice. A number of good design principles emerge from distilling the examples listed above:

  • A station should be a major destination landmark in its own right, not just a soulless utility.
  • Important historical elements should be preserved, unless there are overwhelming reasons to the contrary as in Beijing and Berlin.
  • The principle passenger circulating area and platforms should be above ground.
  • There should be good integration with other transport nodes.
  • There should be adequate facilities for stabling and servicing trains near the station to minimise empty stock movements
  • There should be adequate capacity for the envisaged loadings and future growth.
  • The project should be cost effective.

So how do PKP’s plans for the new ‘Lodz Centralna’ station match up against these criteria? Do not miss our next post.

The original Lodz Fabryczna station, built in 1865.

(Click image to see more old photos of Lodz Fabryczna and Lodz Kaliska on the Made in Lodz blog.)


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2 Responses to “Best and worst station revamps”

  1. tomasz Says:


    Thank You for linking to my website, Klub Starych Dobrych Czasow, and not just copying the photo.


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