In 2009 Newsweek ranked Antwerp Central Station as the world’s fourth greatest train station, after St Pancras in London, Grand Central Terminal in New York and Chhatrapati Shivaji in Mumba.
The grand and beautiful station building with its cathedral-like dome was built between 1895 and 1905 to designs by Loius Delacenserie with the the 185 metres long iron and glass trainshed designed by Clement van Bogaert on a supporting viaduct designed by architect Jan Van Asperen.
Originally built as a terminus, it must have been an astonishing sight to the many travellers who ended their long train journeys across Europe here before setting off to the USA and Canada on the ships of the Red Star Line. The station was completely reconstructed from 1998 to 2007 to enable through-trains to operate with a new tunnel excavated between Berchem station in the south of the city and Antwerpen-Dam station in the north and today it has platforms on three levels around a new central atrium with the street level being a major shopping arcade, including a Diamond Gallery. The new engineering and architecture is a bold modern addition to the historic building and the trainshed, though it presents a challenge of running up escalators if you miss a train on one line to see the next one at another platform above you, as I did.
This stunning example of railway architecture, like St Pancras in London, shows what can be done to marry the old and new and create a 21st century station of highest quality, and makes the loss of the historic Euston station with a replacement which is now itself at the of its life all the more regrettable. The project quite rightly was awarded a Grand Prix at the European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage/Europa Nostra Awards in 2011.