Monday, 26 August 2013

Great Railway Stations Number 8: Marseille, Gare de la Blancarde

Suburban stations often seem strangely bypassed by the tide of human affairs. They may be neat and tidy but an air of inertia prevails. The busy district of Blancarde in Marseille is served by the city’s Métro line and both of the two tram routes that cross the city. It also has a mainline railway station of the sort that accountants would long ago have condemned as unremunerative on Britain’s skeletal rail network. A fully staffed ticket office, largely untroubled by customers graces the foyer beyond which passengers must cross on foot a lightly used, weed infested freight line to access the platforms. This feature alone would have been seized on in Britain as a totally unacceptable risk to passenger safety and the station summarily closed.

The main building has the air of a typical SNCF country station transplanted into the city. On the platform, the shelters are of prefabricated concrete construction with the station name lettered in relief. Local trains to and from Toulon stop every hour and the freight branch line serves a domestic waste transfer depot. In the distant past, some travellers for Marseille would alight at Blancarde to avoid the congestion at Gare St-Charles, taking a tram to the city centre. There are transport planners who dream of a return to this practice but while the TGVs continue to glide through without stopping there’s little chance of that happening. So for the present the station remains as an island of tranquillity in a busy neighbourhood. 

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