Tourists are returning to the rails in ever greater numbers.
Particularly in Europe, the romance, sustainable credentials and economy of train travel has seen consecutive growth in passenger numbers for the past seven years.
And of course, every great journey must have a suitably grand start.
Like cathedrals of public transport, the giant railway stations of France, Germany and beyond are central to the experience. However, not all railway stations were created equal: for every Grand Stazione Milano Centrale there is a soulless terminus like Berlin’s Friedrichstrasse that can put a dampener on your trip.
To help travellers arrive on time and inspired, the European Railway Station Index has been compiled to rank the continent’s 50 largest stations, from best to worst.
Embarked upon by the Consumer Choice Centre, its railway inspectors have marked the public travel hubs on criteria including accessibility, cleanliness, signage and the connections available.
The number of days affected by strikes is another important consideration for European rail stations.
Leading the carriage with a score of 116 out of a possible 139, was London’s St Pancras.
Marked as the “best railways station in Europe” the UK’s international rail terminal scored highly for fast Eurostar connections to France, Belgium and now the Netherlands. Although it scored highly for amenities – the station’s famous champagne bar “did not influence this ranking,” insisted the CCC.
Germany dominated the list. While none of its stations took the top spot the consistency of the Bahnhofs saw the centres of Berlin, Frankfurt, Hamburg and Munich all feature in the top 10 list.
More surprisingly, the best railway in Germany according to the CCC is in the eastern city of Leipzig which came in at number 3. The grand East German “hof” is huge and offers a great number of international connections as a starting point for a European sojourn by rail.
While the list exposed some great inspiration future European rail itineraries, the other end of the table featured some shockers. Paris’ Magenta station scored only 41 out of 139 points for dismal performance for trains’ on time record and a general ambiance which is more dismal still. According to the CCC index rankings it has hit the buffers as Europe’s worst major train station.
The Index was also keen to point out that bigger did not always mean better. “The size of a railway station does not necessarily mean more convenience or better infrastructure,” they said pointing out that some of Europe’s largest stations such as Paris Gare du Nord and Madrid Atocha didn’t even feature in the top 10.
French stations overall performed poorly due to regular industrial action and almost annual summer strikes aimed at disrupting travel.
Helsinki’s beautiful central station “Päärautatieasema” also fell far down the rankings.
As far as we are aware, Helsinki’s station wasn’t penalised for too many consecutive vowels but it would appear it scored 0 for cleanliness, amenities and its lack of “first class lounge option.”
“Train travel has received a more important role in Europe in recent years,” said the CCC.
While the centre also runs a sister index for European Airports, the CCC was aware that rail travel was growing amongst environmentally conscious travellers. Although they insisted this index was an opportunity to showcase the efficiency and convenience of rail versus flight.
“Policy makers and consumers have oriented toward train travel as a means of reducing carbon emissions.
“While we at the Consumer Choice Center stand for choice and technology neutrality, we want to use the rise of interest in long distance train travel as an opportunity to show which railway stations in Europe are the most convenient for travellers,” they said.
Europe’s 10 best train stations
1.St Pancras, London, UK
2.Zürich Central Station, Zurich, Switzerland
3.Leipzig Central Station, Leipzig, Germany
4.Roma Termini, Rome, Italy
5.München Central Station, Munich, Germany
6.Hamburg Central Station, Hamburg, Germany
7.Berlin Central Station, Berlin, Germany
8.Milan Central Station, Milan, Italy
9.Moscow Kazansky, Moscow, Russia
10.Frankfurt Central Station, Frankfurt, Germany
Europe’s 10 worst train stations
1.Magenta, Paris, France
2.Nørreport, Copenhagen, Denmark
3.Haussmann-Saint-Lazare, Paris, France
4.Châtelet–Les Halles, Paris, France
5.Torino Porta Nuova, Turin, Italy
6.Oslo Central Station, Oslo, Norway
7.Dortmund Central Station, Dortmund, Germany
8.Berlin Friedrichstrasse, Berlin, Germany
9.Wien Mitte, Vienna, Austria
10.Helsinki Central Station, Helsinki, Finland
Originally published here.
The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.
The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org