After the fall of Holland in 1940, the centre of Rotterdam was as a wasteland. Little recognisable was left standing: the post war reconstruction had to start literally from scratch. So despite it being cast from concrete, the frontage of Centraal Station was a sign to resident and visitor alike that the city was back in business. It was memorable the first time I visited over forty years ago, and like an old friend when I made a visit while working out here in 2000.
Not any more.
The “redevelopment” of the area has been planned for many years, and began last year with the summary demolition of that frontage. Now all that is left is a gash in the front of the building, which looks ugly and needless. There won’t be any photos of it: it looked so awful. More, one main reason for the exercise, the passenger subway, is still there and still in use. However, a footbridge has been built over the west end of the station, with some platforms having escalators, so perhaps the idea is to copy the recent rebuilding of Leeds City station.
How long the disruption will go on is not clear: it won’t be helped by the extension of the Erasmuslijn Metro north west from under the station, as part of the RandstadRail project. One thing is for sure: a gash in the building and an adjacent jumble of blue portakabins do not make for a memorable welcome. But let’s hope the finished product will do the city justice.
In the meantime, Rotterdam Centraal is dead – long live Rotterdam Centraal.