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Station of dreams a symbol of Berlin's revival

The gargantuan, five-level terminus took more than 10 years to build.

Allan Hall, Berlin
May 27, 2006

EUROPE'S first custom-built railway station in a hundred years has opened in Berlin as a statement of faith in the capital of reunited Germany and of the future of railways in an aircraft age.

The Hauptbahnhof — Main Station — is a cathedral dedicated to the iron horse, a dollop of gigantism in the heart of a city reinventing itself. Even those who never travel by train will be impressed with the architectural shock-and-awe that this Goliath inspires.

Tallest, widest, grandest, boldest — it encapsulates the kind of grandiosity that a previous German ruler called Adolf Hitler plotted for a new super-Reich capital he was to call Germania on the site where Berlin still stands. Those are the parallels the critics of this $A1.2 billion project like to draw.

But mostly the reaction to the Hauptbahnhof is one of pride intermingled with sadness at the departure of a much-loved halt further down the road where the big express trains have pulled in since the end of World War II.

Zoo Bahnhof, which affords travellers the odd glimpse of the llamas and buffaloes at the adjacent animal park, now becomes a regional-trains-only ugly sister to the spanking new Hauptbahnhof.

Germany's single most ambitious building project after the collapse of communism, goes online in time for the World Cup, which kicks off on June 9.

Its statistics, like its location, are impressive. Built on five levels it will handle 300,000 passengers on 750 computer-controlled trains a day that arrive and depart at intervals of just 90 seconds.

The station is the culmination of a dream for Berliners interrupted by bloody wars and partition.

The city fathers have always wanted a New York-style Grand Central Station instead of the plethora of terminals that once dotted the landscape. Now it has one to rival New York's station as a symbol of the newly confident, economically resurgent Germany.

It has been under construction for 11 years on the former no-man's-land between East and West Berlin, adjoining the death strip and old minefields that kept the two Germanies at bay for 40 long years. Passengers will see the German Parliament, the Reichstag, nearby, together with the washing machine-shaped Chancellery, official residence of new German leader Angela Merkel, although she continues to live in a small flat some distance away because the Chancellery — like the station to some — is too grand for her.

The no-man's-land past of the station has been carried to the present: there is little infrastructure. But within the steel-and-glass colossus there are 80 restaurants, bars, underwear shops, perfume boutiques and chemists on three floors.

The station will be the greatest rail junction in Europe, the nexus for trains travelling on all points of the compass in a back-to-the-future revival of the mode of transport that still gives the plane and the car a run for their money on the Continent.

"There have been critics, about style, about costs, about everything, but this is a magnificent achievement," said a Deutsche Bahn spokesman.


■ 500,000 square metres of reinforced concrete used in the construction.
■ 1500 kilometres of cables keep the lights on and computers up.

■ 9000 fire sprinklers installed.

■ 1200 loudspeakers inform passengers of arrivals, departures, delays and cancellations.

■ 54 escalators and 49 lifts move the passengers through station.

■ 900 jobs have been created as a result of the construction.

■ 45 homes could be powered for a year through the electricity generating-cells on the roof.


spaghetti polonaise
2,532 Posts
Scruffy88 said:
well its flashy and sleek and new. but how functional and efficient is it?
Some intercity connections will be faster now. I.e. now you will save half an hour for the route Berlin-Leipzig.
I think it still takes some years until this station reaches full efficiency when it will be connected to the U-Bahn- and Tram-network and when the immediate area north of it will be built up.

The Picture Guy
612 Posts
Brilliant !

How come this is the first time I have heard of this project? Anyway, at least I know now. Is it going to be lit up like that every night?

Premium member
9,953 Posts
This is the first modern train station which is comparable to the beautiful old train stations from the last centuries. I like it even more! Well done!

And dont forget, Berlin gets a new Airport as well. Opening is 2011.

Skyscraper Enthusiast
136 Posts

I saw a program on this on the Discovery Science Channel. They were emphasizing how hard SUPERHARD it was to lower those 2 pieces with precision and then connect them.

Amazing feat. Bravo!

¡Viva el metro!
38,367 Posts
Very, very nice station!!
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