Bahnorama Hauptbahnhof: A First Glimpse
This December, the new station will welcome passengers, and be fully operational by 2015
It is dark and damp like a cave. Piles of rubble line the corridor, and our Wellington boots crunch over broken glass, picking our way among empty soda cans and chunks of plaster that are scattered across the unpaved ground. It is hard to imagine that, in two months’ time, this corridor will lead to the bright and bustling halls of Vienna’s new Hauptbahnhof.
As a reward for enduring five years of building works on the new station, neighbours were invited for a tour of the construction site on 19 October. When completed, the development will sprawl across 109 hectares, straddling the 4th and 10th Districts, between the former South and East Stations and Südtiroler Platz. As Vienna’s Main Station, it will eventually join together train service from across the city for the very first time.
We assembled on Favoritenstraße in the foyer of Bahnorama, a space exhibiting elevation drawings and photo-shopped images along with information about the progress of work on the station. Best of all was a 40-metre high viewing platform, with panoramic views of the construction site below. There are hourly tour slots throughout the day, but at High Noon, we were the first to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse. Each was issued a hard hat, high-visibility vest, a pair of yellow Wellies and a voucher for a free drink in the Bahnorama café. Properly attired, off we went.
The first stop was the courtyard. Our tour guide, Sigi Herzog, drew our attention to the paving stones, which are chequered black and white. The area is so expansive, he said, the design will be visible from above. We then passed through double doors displaying ‘Kein Durchgang!’ signs. No Through Traffic. "Be careful!" Sigi warned repeatedly. The corridor led to a large hall, a future concourse of shops and waiting areas, now looking more like a bomb zone. Puddles of water crept across the floor. We waded through one (thankful again for the Wellies) and up a concrete staircase, littered with coffee cups. Pushing open the doors, we emerged with relief up onto a railway platform.
Work on the platforms has been in progress since 6 August, and the first three are now finished, complete with "Hauptbahnhof Wien" signs for arriving passengers. The massive, sloping roof is the architectural coup of the new station and is already partially complete. Each rhombus takes one month to build, Sigi explained, and there are 14 rhombuses in total. Translucent, they create a bright and breezy ambiance – a welcome contrast to the cold corridors below.
Up on the roof, the sounds of the city raged all around, mingling with the drilling and hammering from the building site. The tagline for this project is "more than just a station". The Hauptbahnhof itself will contain over 100 shops and a garage for 600 cars. As part of the project, the entire surrounding area is being redeveloped as a new district, Sonnwendviertel. An 8-hectare park is being created as well as 5,000 new apartments for 13,000 residents. Outside in the real world, banks, shops and offices are already springing up all around.
Standing on the platform, looking across to Bahnorama, we could see the red office block which will become the new ÖBB headquarters. By December 2012, all regional services from Wien Meidling will be rerouted to the new station, and by 2015, it will be fully operational. By 2019, it is hoped that the entire new district will be built and functional.
We passed through the entrance hall, pausing to gaze up at the ceiling where glass plates hang, again to keep the atmosphere light and bright. This hall looks just like the images hanging in the Bahnorama exhibition. Lighting has been installed, it is already rubble-free, and there are signs directing travellers to Platforms 9, 10 and 11.
We ended the tour back in the courtyard, where taxi signs sit on the black and white slabs, ready to be placed. It is this section that will receive the station’s first travellers in December.
For more on the former Südbahnhof and Hauptbahnhof, see:
"South Station Bids Farewell" in Dec 2009/Jan 2010 TVR
"From Südbahnhof to Hauptbahnhof" in Mar 2010 TVR
"Revisiting and Reviving the ‘Austrian Riviera’" in May 2012 TVR.