Wednesday, 26 August 2015

What is the worst station in Europe?

Railway stations were the cathedrals of the industrial era. Rising high above platforms across the world massive station canopies constructed of steel and glass shone a light into the smokey station beneath. Many of the Victorian era stations are still masterpieces today- however concrete constructions of the 1960's and 70's have fared less well against the test of time. Birmingham New Street in the UK is famous for being dark, dingy and uninviting (a situation soon to change, at least at concourse level following a massive refurbishment) while Penn Station in New York is also often criticised for being an uninviting underground labyrinth.
Despite their floors these large stations are largely well looked after and well used. To meet my candidates for the title of 'worst large station in Europe' we have to travel south east from the UK-

Third Place-
Budapest Deli Palyaudvar, Hungary
Completed in 1969 this station must once have been an imposing sight- the only post war modern station in Budapest. Today it is, at best, dilapidated. Train, tram, metro and bus services seem poorly integrated and the station appears to have suffered from a long term lack of maintainance. The stairs from street level to the higher concourse and platforms are in a particularly bad state with decrepid shops and stalls hardly adding to the aesthetic.

Second Place-
Skopje, Macedonia
The original Skopje station was badly damaged in the devastating earthquake of 1963, resulting in a new modernist concrete structure being completed in 1969. While impressive at it's opening the station has suffered from many years of under-use and under-investment (compounded by the unrest in Yugoslavia during the 1990's). Today just a few platforms are in use and much of the station building is used as the cities bus station- and is in much better condition than the section still used for trains. The station boasts extensive graffiti inside and out, crumbling masonry and sets of escalators gathering dust which have clearly not worked for years. Some platforms do not even have tracks!
Fortunately major upgrade work began in 2014 and will see the station completely modernised - hopefully the results will be worth the wait and, together with new trains due to arrive in late 2015, could begin an upsurge in the popularity of Macedonia's railways.

First Place-
Sofia, Bulgaria
Another communist masterpiece of its time, Sofia station opened in 1974 and with its construction mostly of marble must have been an impressive sight at the time. Once again the the building in this fairly poor country has suffered from years of poor maintenance. Escalators which once moved passengers now stand dormant, beyond repair. The screens and clocks which once gave passenger information have long since stopped working, making the task of finding ones train quite challenging. While the station has a general air of dereliction the interior of the main concourse is still light and airy however the platforms are in a poor state. The addition of a burnt out car on one platform secures Sofia as my personal 'worst station in Europe'. Fortunately, like Skojpe, a major re-building program is now underway to upgrade the station to modern standards by early 2016.

1 comment:

  1. Berlin Schönefeld Flughafen Station is pretty terrible. It's dingy, dirty and feels almost abandoned. There is no staff or integrated passenger information display on the concourse despite it being served by multiple routes, or any attempt to assist passengers with what train they should catch. The best information can actually be found on the monitors hung from the roof at intervals along the walkway from the airport.
    And this is the welcome visitors to the captial of the most powerful economy in Europe receive!
    Of course, it should have been shut down years ago, and still will be eventually when the new airport opens, so nothing is going to change.

    Also, Birmingham New Street, but you already covered that.