What used to be one of the great railway stations in Barcelona, the North one, inaugurated in 1862, closed in 1972 and reopened in 1992, but no longer trains, converted into a sports center, Urban Guard barracks and bus terminal, will recover for the latter its main access. It is made up of a set of doors located right in the center of the monumental facade, the result of the modernist reform and extension of 1911, which faces Carrer Nàpols. In addition, it will incorporate the noble lobby below, part of that same intervention, today used by the sports center.
This action aims to give the bus station – known as Barcelona Nord, managed by the municipal company BSM – the importance it deserves. Not surprisingly, it is the only one in the city that can be considered as such. It is the terminal of the main lines that connect the Catalan capital with the peninsula and Europe. In addition, the City Council wants it to be the point of departure and arrival of discretionary tourist routes by coach instead of the streets of the center. Those that operated in Plaça Catalunya, for example, have already moved there.
The opening of this large entrance – now the terminal is accessed through a door on the left side of the main facade itself – and the addition of the lobby will allow the rest of the spaces to be rearranged to adapt them to current needs of the users. All this was planned in the master plan of the station, but it had no calendar. The obtaining of 4.8 million euros, from the European Next Generation funds, and the inclusion of the project in the tourism sustainability plan in the destination of Barcelona, allows this intervention to be undertaken now. The projects will be drawn up this year and the works will be carried out in 2024 so that everything will be ready in 2025.
"With this new entrance we highlight the bus station as a point of interest in the center of the city, we contribute to the decentralization of tourist transport and we transform the facilities so that users are more comfortable and also for the enjoyment of the neighborhood" , emphasizes Sergi Vidal, director of BSM's professional mobility solutions. This large access, closed for years and barred by several cordons of parked motorbikes, is facing the mouth of the metro and Rodalies d'Arc de Triomf, just two stops and one, respectively, from Plaça Catalunya. It will probably be necessary to adapt the space it has to make it more friendly. Today it is an esplanade that does not invite passing by – it is at a lower level than the street – and many users of the bus terminal access it through the side entrance of Ali Bei with Sicília.
The spectacular facade of the complex, the work of the architect Demetrio Ribes, is a well-known element of the city. It stands out, above all, for its large glass and iron curtain wall and the ornaments that finish the set. But the hall, which is part of the same expansion project signed by the famous Valencian architect, is not so much, since it is not open to the general public. Its 583 square meters are used by the sports center for the practice of rhythmic gymnastics and table tennis, two activities that will continue to have space in this same municipal facility.
The lobby will be attached to the current bus station offices, which occupy around 4,000 square meters in the north wing of the old railway terminal. In 2021, taking advantage of the drop in activity due to the pandemic, an area was remodeled to adapt it to the new needs of users. The restaurant was moved and new living spaces were created. Also, to promote use by tourists, a Barcelona Tourism desk was opened. The idea is for this new interior design to be extended, including the lobby, and for new commercial offerings to be added. In the area that will be incorporated, the architecture will be highlighted and a new range of restaurants and other services will be opened that will attract the public, whether they are travelers or not.
Another notable change will be the closure of the upper floor for users, which will lead to the removal of the access escalators. Having the large lobby provides the necessary surface area for the terminal. Thus, everything will be at street level and from the platforms, so that travelers will gain comfort. On this second level, of about 1,900 square meters, there are the ticket offices and offices of some operating companies, but there is a lot of empty, unused space. It should be borne in mind that ticketing has changed a lot in recent times. Now practically everything is done online or with vending machines.
BSM studies what use can be given to this upper floor. It will probably be used for economic activity – offices – which could partly be for transport companies. In any case, it is a matter of getting an economic return on this space and, thus, contributing to the financial sustainability of the station, indicate from the municipal company.
Passenger flows will also be regulated, especially at the access to the platforms, which suffer from congestion in some time slots. It is being studied to only open them moments before the arrival or departure of buses and coaches. It is also being evaluated that the current door that leads to Ali Bei with Sicilia is only for exiting and that all entrances to the site are made through the large entrance on the main facade.
The recovery of pre-pandemic passenger volumes is already a fact. Barcelona Nord bus station received a total of 2022 passengers only 3% less than in 2019, exactly 2,174,000. Of this figure, 1,945,000 were on regular lines, 10% less than three years ago, and 230,000 on discretionary routes, 275% more. With regard to expeditions – departures and arrivals of vehicles – 127,000 were registered last year, 6% less than before the covid crisis. There are currently 30 operating companies working at the terminal that offer around 60 lines, including, in Catalonia, those of Cardedeu, Lleida, Tossa, La Roca Village, Blanes or l'Escala; in the rest of Spain, Madrid, with a stop in Zaragoza, or Valencia, and the international ones in Andorra, Paris, Lyon, Bordeaux, Marseille, Genoa or Milan. The expansion of the low-cost high-speed rail offer on the Barcelona-Zaragoza-Madrid corridor has made the bus less attractive on this route, but it is being compensated by more trips to foreign destinations. The terminal has connections with ten countries.
The update of the station includes other improvements such as the covering of the bus access ramp to Alí Bei with a tunnel that prevents the passage of pedestrians. Access on foot is prohibited - a sign makes this very clear - but many ignore it, creating dangerous situations. Photovoltaic panels will be installed on top of the new structure, as well as the canopies that cover the platforms. The site already has geothermal energy.