The Best and Worst Major Rail Hubs

A new Arcadis report has ranked the world’s busiest railway stations based on criteria from connectivity to integration in urban environments. This special picture feature, Joe Baker identifies the stations making the cut and those missing the mark

The world’s largest stations are no longer seen as merely an entry point to rail travel, but fully fledged destinations in their own right. Incoming passengers expect stations to be gateways to cities, replete with amenities and intermodal links. Meanwhile, urban planners see environmental sustainability and the economic potential of major rail hubs as vital considerations for future initiatives.

Australian design consultancy Arcadis has assessed major rail hubs on four elements, including connectivity, urban environment, social place-making and economic development. These criteria were used to rank the stations in accordance with their commitment to ‘mobility-orientated development’ (MODe).

So which stations are forging a path when it comes to increasing mobility, and which still have work to do, according to Arcadis?

The world’s best rail hubs 

The world’s worst rail hubs 

Kings Cross / St Pancras International, London, UK

According to Arcadis, London’s adjoining Kings Cross and St Pancras International stations offer the highest performance in terms of connectivity, due to their myriad transportation options and hub facilities.

In the past two decades, St Pancras International has gone from a dilapidated train shed to London’s most celebrated international hub. An £800m renovation in the 2000s brought with it a vibrant concourse with a variety of shops and restaurants, as well as a revamped hotel to welcome travellers as soon as they exit the train.

Kings Cross has had a separate renaissance, with a new semi-circular departures concourse opening to the public in March 2012. The station will be closed in 2020 for a further £237m upgrade, which will involve the renewal of track, sub-system and overhead line equipment.

Euston, London, UK

As Britain’s sixth busiest railway station, Euston serves more than 71 million passengers a year, including visitors from major UK destinations such as Birmingham, Manchester and Edinburgh.

However, while past Arcadis reports have lumped Euston in with its nearby neighbours Kings Cross and St Pancras, the most recent rankings give a low score for the station with regards to environmental sustainability and public amenities.

Euston is currently being expanded as part of a £2.25bn redevelopment project in preparation for the UK’s HS2 trains, which could serve to change its MODe score in the future. However, experts have raised concerns that this upgrade could also have negative effects on punctuality for commuters.

Wimbledon, London, UK

Situated seven miles from central London, Wimbledon’s weak proximity to the city’s main throngs has damaged its overall connectivity score. Signalling problems at the station caused carnage across the city’s Great Western Railway routes this February.

Arcadis claims that Wimbledon’s low MODe ranking could be boosted by upcoming developments related to Crossrail 2, which is set to link national rail networks throughout Greater London via an underground tunnel. This will increase London’s rail capacity by approximately 10% and allow 270,000 people to reach the city centre during peak hours.

The railway station will be redeveloped to accommodate this increasing traffic. The objective is to integrate it into the nearby Centre Court shopping centre, creating a transit, dining and shopping hub in the heart of Wimbledon.

Los Angeles Union Station, Los Angeles, US

Some refer to Los Angeles Union Station as ‘the last of the Great Railway stations’ in the US. Several major Southern Californian railroads converge at its 1930s-built terminal, which has been pivotal for Los Angeles’ growth in the past. However, its low MODe rank was earned because the station is currently lacking in public amenities and is considerably less prosperous than major rail hubs in New York, Denver, Dallas and Washington DC.

This could change in the future, as the station is currently undergoing a ten-year renovation and redevelopment project, which will involve the construction of new tracks and a new passenger concourse with retailers, catering options and passenger waiting areas.

Sydney Central Station, Sydney, Australia

Sydney Central’s position at second to last on the MODe list of world railway hubs highlights a dire trend for Australian train stations, with Melbourne Southern Cross also featured in the bottom rung of the table.

Speaking to Australian reporters, Arcadis strategist Vernon Daal highlighted that stations in the country are far behind those in the US when it comes to transit-hub connectivity. Sydney Central, in particular, is ‘isolated’ from the city with little in the way of public spaces for passengers to congregate.

Last month, the New South Wales Government awarded a $1bn contract for Central’s redevelopment, which will allow it to accommodate the city’s underground line by the early 2020s. A new concourse connecting the station’s two sections is expected to increase its annual capacity from 270,000 to 450,000.