The local council of Bucharest’s Sector 1 voted on Friday to approve the clean-up and rejuvenation of Parcul Garii de Nord, the small park opposite the main entrance to the Romanian capital’s primary railway station. The park, behind which is the monolithic (in every sense of the word) Ministry of Transport, was created in the 1930s but took its current shape in the 1960s, after the completion of the apartment blocks on Bulevardul Dinicu Golescu and Strada Garii de Nord, which flank it:
In recent years the park – like most of the area which surrounds the station – has become a complete and utter dump, one of the most insalubrious places in all of Bucharest, a cesspit of filth, crime and home to all sorts of highly dodgy characters (not least those who work in the Ministry of Transport).
Local residents have for years been campaigning for the park to be cleaned up, and on election to the council last year the USR made the project one if its priorities. Alas, all-too-often arguments over who was liable held things up. The Sector 1 council wanted to intervene but both the Ministry of Transport and Bucharest City Council were indifferent, and dithered over who was ultimately responsible. Finally, at the end of last year, ownership of the park was deemed to be that of Bucharest City Council’s Lakes and Parks Division (ALPAB), which subsequently agreed to transfer control to Bucharest Sector 1.
The news that the park is to be given a new lease of life is highly welcome. Plans include the creation of an urban garden and children’s play areas, which it is hoped will encourage local residents to once again make use of it. The park will also be guarded around the clock, and access tightly controlled: one of the problems until now has been a lack of security. Work should begin before the end of the summer and it is hoped that the park will become a point of reference for people arriving in Bucharest.
Now, that’s all well and good, but what of Gara de Nord itself?
It is Bucharest’s only train station worthy the name (and it is important to keep repeating that fact) and the sole point of entry for anyone arriving in the Romanian capital by train (be it from another country or somewhere else within Romania). As welcomes go, Gara de Nord is currently little less than a giant ‘fuck off’. It has seldom been in a worse state. Large parts of it are unsafe, not least the platforms, blighted by thousands of loose tiles. There is naked electrical wiring all over the place (much of it very high voltage, we would assume), and when it rains much of the main concourse floods. There are fewer ticket offices than ever, meaning long queues. Signage is non-existent, getting a decent taxi is a battle and the public toilets are rank. There are few train stations anywhere in the world we are happy to spend anything more than as little time as possible (Berlin Hauptbahnhof is an exception) but that is usually because of crowds, not the sheer state of the place. Gara de Nord is a shithole.
The station is the property of the Ministry of Transport, and given how much money is made from the leasing of commercial space and concessions it is unlikely to give up control easily, either to the Sector 1 local council or to Bucharest City Council. It should therefore put its own money into the place: if it doesn’t, it should be forced (via government legislation) to hand it over the another public (or even private) operator that will. The status quo cannot continue: the station is an embarrassment
Top photo credit: Bucurestii Vechi si Noi