Written by: Charu Suri
Train stations around the world are receiving significant face lifts, giving them a contemporary atmosphere and putting a new emphasis on retail and restaurants.
Several countries are investing heavily in rail renovations: France has spent more than 870 million euros (about $967 million) on improving more than 3,000 train stations since 2012, including Gare de Lyon and St.-Lazare in Paris and Gare de Part-Dieu in Lyon. New stores include Eric Kayser’s bakeries and Tekoe tea shops.
In Vienna, a central train station, or Hauptbahnhof, designed to connect trains from Innsbruck and Munich to the east partially opened in 2012 and is expected to be completed this year. According to Peter Rahaman, vice president for sales at Rail Europe, train stations are increasingly seen as havens of leisure: With this idea in mind, residential developments and more than 100 shops are planned around the Hauptbahnhof.
“Railroads and stations are becoming the premier real estate across Europe,” Mr. Rahaman said. “Long-range high-speed rail is the new sign of luxury,” he added, noting that stations are offering more fashionable food and drink establishments to accommodate lingering travelers.
The bullet train Shinkansen in Japan will expand its corridors to the Hokuriku region (known for its hot springs and traditional arts and crafts ) in March, and will extend to Hokkaido in 2016. Stations in these new regions are designed using local materials including beech timber for benches, rice paper for lights, and jade for columns in the waiting room.
In the United States, the Beaux-Arts 112-room Crawford Hotel opened last July inside the 120-year-old historic Denver Union Station, which also underwent a recent restoration. The hotel rooms are “Pullman” style, with nods to Art Deco architecture and riffs on the glamorous private sleeping cars. The station itself features 13 local shops and restaurants and 600 pieces of Western art curated by a local gallery.
Amtrak’s revitalization efforts include making stations in Washington, Baltimore and Chicago centers of their neighborhoods.