Antwerpen-Centraal railway station

Antwerpen-Centraal railway station (Dutch: Station Antwerpen-Centraal, French: Gare d'Anvers-Central) is the main railway station in Antwerp, Belgium. It is one of the most important hubs in the country and is one of the four Belgian stations on the high-speed rail network. From 1873 to early 2007, it was a terminal station. The current building, designed by the architect Louis Delacenserie, was constructed between 1895 and 1905. On 23 March 2007, a tunnel with two continuous tracks was opened under part of the city and under the station. The train services are operated by the National Railway Company of Belgium (NMBS/SNCB).

Early history

Antwerp's first station was the terminus of the Brussels–Mechelen–Antwerp railway line, which opened on 3 June 1836. The original station building was made of wood and was replaced by a new and larger building on the occasion of the opening of the new international connection to the Netherlands in 1854–55.

 Antwerpen-Centraal railway station, c. 1910. Note the elaborate garden on the Koningin Astridplein.

The current terminal station building was constructed between 1895 and 1905 as a replacement for the first station. The stone-clad building was designed by the architect Louis Delacenserie. The viaduct into the station is also a notable structure designed by local architect Jan Van Asperen. A plaque on the north wall bears the name Middenstatie ("Middle Station"), an expression now antiquated in Dutch. To the north of the station a large public square, known as the Statieplein ("Station Square"), was created, acting as an entry to the city for its many commuters. In 1935, the square's name was changed to the Koningin Astridplein, in honour of the recently deceased Queen Astrid.

World War II damage and restoration

During World War II, severe damage was inflicted to the train hall by the impact of V-2 rockets, though the structural stability of the building remained intact, according to the National Railway Company of Belgium.[1] Nevertheless, it has been claimed that the warping of the substructure due to a V-2 impact had caused constructional stresses.[2] The impact remains visible due to a lasting wave-distortion in the roofing of the hall.[1]

 Visible wave-distortion in the roof of the train hall. The warping of the structure can be seen at the far top-right end of the roof.

In the mid-20th century, the building's condition had deteriorated to the point that its demolition was being considered. The station was closed on 31 January 1986 for safety reasons, after which restoration work to the roof (starting at the end of March 1986 and finishing in September 1986) and façades was performed. The stress problems due to the impact of bombs during the war were reportedly solved by the use of polycarbonate sheets instead of glass, due to its elasticity and its relatively low weight (40% less than glass), which avoided the need for extra supporting pillars.[2] After replacing or repairing steel elements, they were painted burgundy. Copper was also used in the renovation process of the roof.[2]

Expansion for high-speed trains

In 1998, large-scale reconstruction work began to convert the station from a terminus to a through station. A tunnel was excavated between Antwerpen-Berchem railway station in the south of the city and Antwerpen-Dam railway station in the north, passing under the Central Station, with platforms on two underground levels. This allows Thalys, HSL 4 and HSL-Zuid high-speed trains to travel through Antwerpen-Centraal without the need to turn around (the previous layout obliged Amsterdam–Brussels trains to call only at Antwerpen-Berchem or reverse at Central).

The major elements of the construction project were completed in 2007, and the first through trains ran on 25 March 2007.[3] The station was awarded a Grand Prix at the European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Awards in 2011.[4][5]

^ a b Erik Sclep (Communication Manager SNCB Holding), ed. (May 2011). "Welcome To Antwerp Centraal. The Railway Cathedral of the 20th and 21st century" (PDF). SNCB Holding (la Gare / het Station) National Railway Company of Belgium. ^ a b c Cite error: The named reference Duurzamekunststoffen was invoked but never defined (see the help page). ^ Antwerpen Centraal fully open Today's Railways Europe issue 146 February 2008 page 7 ^ "EU Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Awards 2011". Archived from the original on 1 June 2014. ^ "Press corner".
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