When Hana Podmanická, a lady in her 50s, bearing her bike uncomfortably under her arm in the summer 2017, was making her way through people with heavy suitcases, climbing down the stairs to her platform on the main station in Bratislava, she said: “I'm not interested in who, when and how unfavourable contract has been signed. I finally want to travel like in the the 21st century.”
The station has change only a little since then. The facility that serves about 60,000 passengers and 200 trains every day received a small facelift, which still left the station as an unwelcoming and deterring gate to the Slovak capital.
The municipal authorities, the Transport Ministry and the state-owned railway network operator Železnice Slovenskej Republiky (ŽSR) have now clinched a memorandum on cooperation, with the aim of finally giving the Slovak capital a proper main train station. Together they pledged to rebuild the station and its surroundings, with the involvement of a private investor.
“I had been trying for three years to find a partner on the side of the state that would hear our call to give citizens and visitors of Bratislava a proper railway station,” said Bratislava Mayor Matúš Vallo on February 8, when he introduced the memorandum with the other stakeholders. An international architectural competition would answer the question on how this space would look, he added.
Transport Minister Andrej Doležal (Sme Rodina) noted that the state does not and will never have the money for a comprehensive reconstruction of Bratislava's main railway station.
“We are doomed to cooperation,” Doležal said about his ministry, the city, the railway company and the private investor.
The plan is to prepare a comprehensive public private partnership project to develop the entire zone, including the reconstruction of the railway station, while this project is interesting enough to draw a private investor.
But even if things go smoothly from now on, it will take years before the project is completed. Some small improvements could come to pass even before the municipal election this year.