A railway station is a place for trains to make halts and load and unload passengers and goods. It is a very busy and chaotic place as it sees people coming and going throughout the day. Some of them are leaving for their destination while some are waiting for the arrival of their loved ones. Hence it is very important to have the proper facilities for the passengers at the railway station so that they can travel comfortably and smoothly.
A well designed railway station provides a logical flow for passengers in order to help them get on and off the train, as well as connecting them with other modes of transport. It also helps to reduce the walking time for passengers, especially during transfer. The key to this is a well designed communication area which links the set-down and pick-up zones with the platform. This is accomplished through accessible lifts, escalators and stairways, as well as bridges or underpasses.
These areas should be clearly marked, visually clear, well lit and with a shallow grade for all passenger groups. In addition, a railway station should provide safe and secure facilities for luggage, including lockers and bicycle storage. These are essential in the case of a pandemic and should be located within the communication area, where they can be easily accessed by travellers. The same applies to toilets and food outlets.
The railway station is usually very complex as it may serve many lines, with multiple platforms, and various different types of trains. It is also often built at the point where two or more lines intersect. This can lead to unusual platform arrangements, such as a Keilbahnhof with staggered platforms (see image) or a triangular station (see image). Stations which serve intercity and suburban services may have separate tracks for each type of service at differing levels.
A terminus is a station at the end of a line, where trains either terminate or require reversing in order to continue their journey. A basic terminus station may just have one or more platforms, while more elaborate stations have other passenger facilities, such as ticket offices, waiting rooms and benches.
Many large and medium sized railway stations offer interchange with local transportation, such as buses or trams. This can range from a simple bus stop across the street to underground rapid-transit urban rail stations. In some cases, smaller rural stations serve as the main hub for bus and other forms of public transportation in a region.
Some of the larger and more complex railway stations also have shops and restaurants. The latter are particularly important for the tourism industry, as they help attract visitors to a city or region. The food and drink served at these facilities can be as diverse as the people using the station, from local favourites to international chains. The use of railway stations as hubs for public markets and other informal activities is a feature of some African, South American and Asian cities.