Charleroi-Sud station has evolved with the city?
In 1874, Charleroi was given a station worthy of the capital of the Black Country, just a few months after the direct Charleroi-Brussels link was put into operation.
It was the cousin of the station in Liège-Guillemins, as they were both designed by railway architect Lambeau, who was obviously inspired by the Gare de l'Est in Paris. But unlike Guillemins station, Charleroi-Sud is now almost in its original state, despite its renovation in 2011 and the urban upheavals in the city at the beginning of the 21st century.
The architectural scale, which has been compared to that of a palace, reminds us that it proclaimed the faith of an era in progress. Passenger trains and industrial lines crossed there, and the size of the station followed industrial progress. The centre of the building was dedicated to receiving visitors and was illuminated by two semi-circular windows. The station was topped by a statue of Antoine-Félix Bouré symbolising the city. The glass wall on the tracks side now overlooks a modern stained glass window, created in 1964 by Claude Carpet from Marcinelle. On each side of the main body of the station are two wings containing a buffet and related services, each leading to a small pavilion. In 1930, which marked the height of its development, the Charleroi basin became the most powerful industrial centre in Belgium, with assets that were the stuff of dreams: an industrial exchange, ten trade guilds, 26 collieries, 13 steel factories, 16 glass factories, nine daily newspapers and periodicals and 18 consulates, as well as excellent restaurants and mansions. This economic power justified the gigantism of the station.
1964 marked the end of major development. From then on, in the same space, the concourse housed ticket offices, waiting room, an information office, newspaper kiosks, restaurant, refreshment bar and more. However, this renovation was described as iconoclastic as it was disrespectful of the original architecture. The station was also intimately involved in the renovation of public transport in Charleroi from 1971, welcoming buses, trams and pre-metro at its door.
In 2005, the largest restoration work in the station's history began. Thanks to the architect Pol Lefèvre, the original character of the 19th century facade and the soft light of its restored glass windows were restored. The renovated station was inaugurated in 2011.
Other work is underway to build a new under-track walkway and develop its accesses, including the installation of lifts to access each platform. The station will then be fully accessible to people with reduced mobility. This work is due to be completed by the end of 2024. Lastly, a new plan has been launched for the development of the entire station area, which will become a lively district with the construction of office buildings and housing.