Wien Westbahnhof railway station
The fully renovated Westbahnhof with the BahnhofCity in 2011
|Owned by||Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB)|
|Operator||Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB)|
Wien Westbahnhof (Vienna West station) is a major Austrian railway station, the starting point of the West railway (Westbahn) and used by trains to Salzburg, Munich, Frankfurt, Zürich, Budapest, Bucharest, and Belgrade. As well as long-distance routes, Wien Westbahnhof is served by local trains on S-Bahn-line S50 and underground (U-Bahn) lines U3 and U6. Six tram lines converge on Europaplatz in front of the station, although none go into the city centre. There are also buses to the airport.
Westbahnhof is in Vienna's 15th District (Rudolfsheim-Fünfhaus) on the Gürtel (inner-city ring road). Mariahilfer Strasse to the immediate south-east provides a direct route into the centre of the city.
Westbahnhof is the largest Viennese railway station after Wien Südbahnhof, and the departure point for trains to Germany, Poland, and beyond to France and Belgium. There are also trains via the Speisinger Connector to Hungary, Serbia, and Romania in the east and southeast. As a terminus station, OBB trains to Hungary must presently leave the station backwards and reverse to continue on their journey.
The station is also the departure point for regional rail lines into the west of Vienna that are included in the Eastern Regional Traffic Authority and belong in part to the Viennese S-Bahn.
With the establishment of the long-planned Wien Hauptbahnhof (Vienna main station) the Westbahnhof will lose some of its significance, as international trains, above all those that go on to Eastern Europe, will be routed directly to the Hauptbahnhof through connecting Lainzer Tunnel under the Lainzer Tiergarten, which has been put into regular operation by 9 December 2012. At this time, a reduction in the station's size is to be expected and concepts for the utilisation of the surplus space are already being considered.
1858 to 1949
Built for the western railway (originally called the k.k. privilegierte Kaiserin-Elisabeth-Bahn), the station was designed by the architect Moritz Löhr and opened in 1858. The facility was made up of four sections built in a historical style.
The main hall was 104 metres long and originally 27.2 metres wide. It was covered by a beamed iron awning and provided space for four tracks. Intervening peninsular platforms were not yet available. The exit from the hall was flanked by two towers. On the east, a two-story administration building separated the trackage from the Gürtel.
The side wings included provision for arrivals and departures. The southerly departure side consisted of an ornamented portal with steps and three large arches supported by columns, that were crowned with statues. Access passages to the left and right of these led to the two two-storey office buildings. Through this portal, one entered the ticket hall and the departure platform. On slightly elevated terrain, the departure side offered the most impressive view of the station from the southeast. This motif was repeated in the northerly arrival side; however because of the grade, the building's foundation was lower and the portal not built up as high, as arcades offered passengers who were waiting for carriages or carts protection from the elements.
In order to deal with the increased number of passengers, the two towers that flanked the departure gate were moved further apart in a modification that lasted from 1910 to 1912. The roof construction was also changed and space for a fifth track was attained. In addition, further covered platforms and departure tracks were provided in the foreground of the tracks in the terminal proper.
In April 1945 the station was hit by bombs and burnt down in the course of battles at the end of World War II; the roof of the gallery collapsed. After the end of the war, the buildings were by necessity adapted for the needs of rail travel, but a complete reconstruction was decided upon, so the station was torn down in 1949.
A statue of namesake of the original railway Empress Elisabeth from the original facade of the station still recalls the old station in the lower hall of the new Westbahnhof.
The rebuilt Westbahnhof was designed by Architects Hartiger & Wöhnhart and opened in 1952. Because only narrow administration wings were built on the sides, space was available for eleven tracks in all, accessed from covered peninsular platforms.
The centerpiece of the rebuilt Westbahnhof is the large hall giving on to the Gürtel (Europaplatz), which is divided into a lower and an upper level that is reached by two flights of stairs and escalators. The hall is lighted by high windows that are built into the east and west facades above the platform overhangs. The ticket windows are installed beneath the upper hall. Later on, a pavilion was built in the lower hall that offered a service centre for bookings, hotel reservations and the like. In the 1980s a parking garage was erected on the north side of the station.
The Westbahnhof, with its half-timbered roof construction, enjoys protected-monument status.
In the course of building the U3 subway line, a large new steel and glass construction was built in 1993, which accommodates some of the station's restaurants and a cafe on several levels. The underground passage to the subway stations can be reached from the lower level.
Various businesses catering to travellers are on both levels of the hall (supermarket, tobacco and newsstands, Internet cafe, post office, copy centre, snack shops, flower shops, barber shop, etc.). The police station was officially closed on April 26, 2006 because further use was not considered reasonable following a vermin infestation.
September 2008 - Late 2011
In mid-September 2008 a series of works commenced at Wien West, including the renovation of the listed ticket hall, the removal of the expensive, redundant flag poles outside of the station (which were placed too closely next to one another to ever carry flags), and the construction of new buildings to the left and right of the main hall, all of which are part of the new BahnhofCity project. To the left, above the park on the corner of Mariahilfer Straße and Neubaugürtel, an office building with a large atrium, on the other side another modern office complex with integrated hotel was constructed. The new shopping centre includes space for roughly 90 shops and various restaurants.
During the construction period the entire ticket hall and the Europaplatz in front of it were shut down. A provisional station building was created south of the main hall so that the station could remain in operation.
Building and refurbishing works cost roughly 200 million Euros and were finished in 2011. The station and the buildings of BahnhofCity Wien West were officially reopened on 23 November 2011.
Wien Westbahnhof was recently selected as a main motif for a high value collectors' coin: the Empress Elisabeth Western Railway commemorative coin. The reverse shows a view of the passenger hall of the first Vienna West Railway Station. The style of this building was inspired by Romantic Historism. On the right of the coin, the statue of the Empress Elisabeth can be seen. This statue still stands today in the station.
- Kaiser, Wolfgang (2011). Die Wiener Bahnhöfe. Geschichte, Gegenwart und Zukunft [The Vienna Railway Stations: History, Present and Future]. München: GeraMond. ISBN 9783862451104. (German)
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