PLANS for the long-awaited rebuilding of Bilbao’s main station, Abando, are close to being finalised. Tendering for the Pts41bn project is now in hand, and construction is expected to start towards the end of this year on the railway stations, bus station and car parks. The privately financed commercial areas within and alongside the site will follow later.

The former Norte railway’s Victorian train shed is to be replaced by a spectacular modern complex. Abando Passenger Interchange will incorporate platforms for Spanish National Railways’ long-distance trains and suburban services, a separate low-level station for 1000mm gauge FEVE and Basque Railways services (centre of drawing), a central bus station, hotel, shops, offices and private dwellings. There will be an underground car park for 1500 cars, as well as pick-up and set-down points.

The legacy of Bilbao’s location on a small area of land beside the meandering River Nervión, coupled with its history as a destination for several private railways, is six separate stations, some frustratingly close to one another but divided by streets or vertical distance. The first line of the metro which opened last year (DM96 p41) has already reduced the problem by linking two 1000mm gauge routes. Abando Interchange will bring three more together on one site. Abando will be linked to surrounding streets by brightly-lit covered walkways and plazas, forming a new focal point for the city between the old and new towns.

Renfe’s 1668mm gauge platforms will remain on their original plateau site as the centrepiece of the structure. Extra platforms, giving a total of 12, will be added to accommodate future high speed services and suburban trains now using the unattractive riverside La Naja station. Abando metro station will be linked by walkways, and there will be waiting rooms and station offices over the Renfe platforms. This area will also house a tourist information centre, and it will open on to a new Plaza de Abando with shops and cafes. Escalators will run down from the Renfe platforms to the 1000mm gauge station, bus station and shopping area.

The 1000mm gauge station will be the terminus for trains from the Balmaseda lines and former Robla railway now terminating at Concordia, which is to be retained as a museum or cultural venue. Beyond the platform ends, this level gives way to the shopping plaza and waiting areas with passenger information indicators for rail, suburban and inter-city bus services. Access malls to the streets on each side will offer more catering outlets. o