the gloomiest railway station in europe


‘Belgian politicians spend a lot of time fretting about the negative image of their country. They complain about the fact that the foreign media always focuses only on the negative news stories, like the recent murders in a quiet Limburg village by a possible serial killer.

But when it comes to doing something to manage the image of their country, the same politicians fail to achieve any semblance of unity. If you want to find about Belgium in New York, for example, you have a baffling choice in seven different offices to call up. Each one has been set up to promote one piece of the jigsaw, not on the whole thing. Americans, of course, find this laughable.

The country also fails miserably when it comes to welcoming people. Most visitors arrive at Gare du Midi/Zuidstation, which is possibly the gloomiest railway station in Europe. Travellers who take Eurostar from the gorgeous St Pancras terminal in London can barely believe ther eyes when they step out in a poky arrivals hall resembling a former Communist era interrogation room. Here is a space that the federal government could use to project a short inspiring film about Belgium.

Now, at last, the rail authorities have appointed an architect, the French Jean Nouvel, to give the station a facelift. It’s not hte first time that big money has been spent on an upgrade (they tried and failed back in 1991), so the whole project could simply turn out to be another expensive flop.

It would help if the Brussels tourist office rented a space at the station to direct new arrivals in the right direction. They could, for example, point out that it’s just ten minutes on foot to the Parvis de Saint-Gilles which is one of the most vibrant neighbourhoods in the city”

(Derek Blyth, Brussels Unlimited, januari 2010)


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