What Is a Railway Station?

A railway station is a hub for people and goods, providing connections to local communities and boosting economies around the world. These transit centers are often beautiful architectural landmarks that reflect the history and culture of the regions they serve. They also offer a variety of services for passengers such as ticketing, baggage handling, food and beverage options, accommodations and more.

A train station is a complex structure with varying functions that must be carefully planned to accommodate large numbers of commuters and travelers. The most important services include ticketing, waiting areas, restrooms, security, a control room, information booths and other public spaces. In addition to these basic services, most stations contain commercial and cultural facilities like restaurants, bookstores, museums and other entertainment options. Many have car parking and bus interchanges as well.

Traditionally, railway stations were built by individual railroads for their own trains. This created a patchwork of styles that can now be seen in the world’s most iconic stations. Some, like the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in Mumbai, have been designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites and are celebrated for their lavish Victorian-Gothic designs. Others have been more recently designed with sleek and modern architecture that references the speed and efficiency of the high-speed trains that use them.

Many modern stations are built as complex urban hubs that integrate with other forms of transportation and public infrastructure. The Metro subway system in Paris is a case in point, with its elegant black-and-white lines that wind beneath the city streets. Other major cities such as Tokyo and London have similarly innovative underground railways that are a model for the rest of the world.

There are also more modestly scaled stations that cater to smaller passenger loads. These may have fewer amenities than larger stations and focus more on convenience and comfort for travelers. For example, the redesigned Station Okuoikojo in Japan was originally designed to service local mountain hikers but now serves tourists who stop at the train’s spectacular location to take photos and ring the “happy bell” before continuing their journey.

A station can be classified as a terminal, an interchange or a halt. A terminal station is the end of a line, where trains either stop and terminate or continue on to other tracks (see the Gare de Lyon). Interchange stations allow travellers to change from one route to another without having to leave the building or cross tracks. At a halt, trains will only stop if passengers on board signal that they wish to get off or the crew decides it is time to move forward.

Some halts have no platforms at all, but are merely stops where trains stop on request and remain there until passengers signal that they want to alight. Other halts have elevated structures where the rails are raised above the road level, as is the case with Bondi Junction in Australia and Kristiansand Station in Norway.