Transformations in and around Utrecht Central Station

By Hans van Deursen

The 27th of September brought once again new changes to the Central Station: a generally different layout, adjusted walking routes and replacement of the bus station. To what end are these changes continuously made? It is hard to see at this moment what is actually being done and what the area will look like in three years, let alone to find your way around.

One of the most notable changes is of course the Central Station itself. The main reason for remodelling is the growing number of travellers. The former station was intended for 33 million travellers a year, but at the moment nearly 90 million travellers make use of Utrecht Central Station. Change is therefore necessary to facilitate this growth.

The builders faced a daunting task, as they had to rebuild the Central Station whilst still accommodating these 90 million travellers a year. They divided this job into six steps. The first step, creating the part of the station nearest to the Jaarbeursplein (the part behind platform 19), is already finished. And currently they are working on step two and three: rebuilding the city and Jaarbeursplein side entrances. These two steps will be finished by Autumn 2014. The last three steps will remodel the more central part of the station with the eventual goal to increase the integration of trains, trams, and buses.

Besides these changes in the Central Station itself, the surrounding areas are also completely being transformed. Take the East side of the station where you used to catch bus 4 to UCU. The station is currently seamlessly connected with the shopping mall Hoog Catharijne, while at the ground level everything is riddled with bikes.

The connection with Hoog Catharijne will disappear and a slightly elevated station square will be created. Due to the occasional rainy day, this square will have a roof. They will try to limit traffic to and from the station to make way for pedestrians and therefore improve the connection to the city centre. Cyclists will move around underneath this (elevated) square, where they will be able to park their bikes in the biggest bike shed in the world! It will be able to contain 12.500 bikes. They hope to finish this in 2018.

At the West side of the station, the Jaarbeursplein, the different departments of the Utrecht City Hall, previously scattered around town, will be centralised in 2015. Most of it has been realised and is already visible right next to the platforms. And if the 12.500 bike places are not enough, this side will also get a bike shed of 4.500 bikes.

But not all building is confined to the station. Right in front of the station there is a huge building being made on your left hand side. This will be the new “music palace.” It will have five concert halls for five different styles of music: pop, jazz, classical music, chamber music, and cross over. It should be finished by the end of this year, so hopefully we can all enjoy some live music from next semester onwards.

And there is even more: a new tramline towards the Uithof, a bike bridge crossing the train tracks, and a mega-cinema. It is impossible to capture all changes in one article, but at least this may shed some light on all these confusing changes.

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