A railway station is a place that connects the people with the rail transport system, whether they are passengers or commuters, and it is therefore an important element for any transit network. In fact, railway stations are also cultural places that can inspire us. Some have been designed with great artistic ambitions and are worth visiting even if you’re not planning to catch a train, like Grand Central or the railway station in Dunedin (New Zealand). The best railway stations evoke the same sense of civic pride and spiritual ambition as cathedrals.
While some of the world’s finest railway stations are masterpieces of architectural design, others are more functional. Some serve multiple purposes at once, as is the case with the multifunctional railway station in Antwerpen-Centraal. This station was designed in a revived Flemish Renaissance style, and while it is still home to trains, its upper floor houses New Zealand’s sports hall of fame and the Otago Art Society.
It is important for a railway station to be a place that is easy to understand and orientate, and a good way to achieve this is by designing it as an overall system with different zones that are linked together by logical paths of movement and traffic. These zones include the set down and pick up zones for buses, private cars, taxis and bicycles, as well as pedestrian zones and parking areas. These zones are connected to the platforms through the communication area that should be easily accessible for all passenger groups and should feature a series of elevators, escalators, lifts and walkways. A logical layout reduces the walking distance and enables passengers to transfer within the station without a lot of waiting time, which can be further minimized by grade separated passages.
Depending on the size of the railway station, there are several different arrangements that can be used to organize it. For example, the main entrance can be situated on a level lower than the platform (type 1), or on a level higher than the platforms (type 2). In addition to these arrangements, stations can also be divided into interlockings and junctions. Interlockings and junctions are a special type of station that separates tracks for trains and can have remotely or locally operated signals. This type of station is used on high-speed lines and has the potential to increase capacity.
Despite the importance of their role in urban transportation, few studies focus on the function of a railway station as a space for city life. However, recent redevelopment projects of many railway stations have shown that this is an important topic to explore. These redevelopments have been prompted by the need to increase the number of passengers, a growing demand for commercial spaces and the desire to promote sustainable development, including greenery in city centers. This redevelopment process has given rise to three different ways of conceptualizing the development of station areas: property capitalization, urban mega-projects and transit oriented developments.