“The 500,000 travelers should feel comfortable here”: Ronald Pofalla, as a member of the board of Deutsche Bahn, promises a new feel-good atmosphere at Frankfurt Central Station. Based on the Leipzig model, the city is to get a new entrance.
Not only the 500,000 travelers who passed the main train station every day in the pre-Corona times and many of whom switched to the underground and suburban trains in the basement, know from painful experience that the B-level opened in 1978 under the main train station and whose forecourt is very old. “It really doesn’t invite you to linger,” said Ronald Pofalla on Monday, member of the board of directors of Deutsche Bahn and responsible for the infrastructure and thus also for one of the largest train stations in Germany.
But now everything is supposed to be different: The federal government, Deutsche Bahn, the city of Frankfurt and the Frankfurt transport company are making a total of 375 million euros available – most of which comes from the federal government – to cover the B-level and the Complete redesign of the station’s reception hall. “There is literally no stone left unturned,” said Pofalla. The aim is to design the main train station, one of the “largest mobility hubs in Germany”, in such a way that travelers feel comfortable and enjoy going to the train station and B-level. “We want to make the main station, this international hub, which is also the gateway to the metropolis of Frankfurt, fit for the future.”
Everything should be more open, brighter and friendlier. That is why there is, for example, a new lighting concept that was presented in a room on the B-level on the occasion of the symbolic groundbreaking ceremony on Monday. In addition, the 18,000 square meter area under the station forecourt is to be designed more openly, there should be more orientation aids for passers-by and above all more restaurants and shops, possibly even some offices. Above all, however, it should be possible in the future to get directly from the S-Bahn station level to the B-level. Previously, passengers had to leave the underground station using stairs.
“We want this place to lose its horror”
At the end of the day, Deutsche Bahn also wants to present 70 new shops in the main station – because in a second step, after the conversion of the B-level, the basement is to be moved up to the station’s reception hall. For this purpose, the floor of the hall is to be opened up and a kind of “atrium” will be created. Access to the B-level should be made easier in this way. “We are based on the main train stations in Berlin, Leipzig or Düsseldorf,” said Pofalla, who was connected to the video from Berlin because of the pandemic – where shopping in the main train station has long been an integral part of train station culture.
With the renovation, “something big begins for Rhine-Main, Hesse and Germany,” said Hesse’s Transport Minister Tarek Al-Wazir (The Greens) and called the starting shot for the redesign of the B-level, associated with the symbolic groundbreaking, one of the “most effective for decades Decisions of the Deutsche Bahn “. As a railway junction, the main train station plays a central role for Germany. “We know that some of the nationwide delays arise here,” said the minister. The train station and rail transport as a whole are also “the backbone for local transport” and “essential for maintaining mobility in the region”.
Al-Wazir also made it clear that the B level has not yet been a place where people like to be. As a distribution level for pedestrian flows, however, it is indispensable. “We want this place to lose its horror.” The previous “confusion” and the “fearful dreams” should disappear, added Al-Wazir. The main train station, which opened in 1888, and the B-level were to present themselves in the way that this traditional place deserves.
Challenge for commuters
Al-Wazir sees the announced investment of 345 million euros – 30 million euros have already flowed into a new sprinkler and ventilation system as well as a new IT center – as a “huge economic stimulus program” that also helps to reduce the economic consequences of the pandemic alleviate. It is good that Deutsche Bahn is “investing right now”. However, the minister also pointed out that such a large renovation project would be a challenge for passers-by, commuters and travelers. “Everyone will need more patience, that’s how it is with large construction sites.”
“Our passengers have been waiting a long, long time for the start of the conversion of the B-level,” said Knut Ringat, Managing Director of the Rhein-Main-Verkehrsverbund (RMV). In the past ten years there has been a lot of talk about what should, can and want to do. It will certainly continue to be planned, but at the B-level one has finally reached the building. “This is a great day for mobility in Frankfurt and Rhein-Main.” The Mayor of Frankfurt Peter Feldmann (SPD), also only present by video message at the symbolic groundbreaking, assessed the conversion of the B-level as “a strong sign for Frankfurt and for our traffic turnaround ”.
With the renovation of the B-level, the city’s plans to redesign the station forecourt itself may also be moving. In 2008 there was already an architectural competition for this. However, it is not clear whether its results will come into play after 2024, when Deutsche Bahn moves its work to the station and the forecourt is no longer used for material and construction vehicles, because of the emerging traffic turnaround: The urban public transport company Traffiq has been looking for September according to suitable planners who, when redesigning the forecourt, also take into account that the tram stop is to have four instead of two tracks in the future. At the same time, the stops for the city buses are to be omitted, the vehicles are to use those of the trams in the future. The traffic department hopes to be finished with this new plan in time by 2024 or 2025, when the railway has modernized the B-level under the forecourt, and for its part to begin with the reconstruction of the forecourt.