Study these two photos a moment and answer me one question. Are the two buildings the same place?
Vaguely reminiscent of the way Professor Quirrell is possessed by Lord Voldemort in the finale of The Philospher’s Stone, Chongqing North is really two separate entities secretly sharing the same body.
In this blog post, I’m going to attempt to unravel one of the most unfathomable curiosities of city planning, so do bear with me as I do my best to depict this abstraction.
Chongqing North Railway Station 重庆北站 is already well over a decade old, but for years, a design anomaly of epic proportions led to thousands of people missing their train every day. Although the situation has been remedied slightly, this station remains a constant source of inconvenience and consternation.
Should you ever use Chongqing North railway Station, you would be wise to heed the golden rule that follows at the end of this post. For all others, prepare to exercise your powers of imagination and enjoy this bemusing tale.
What’s the deal?
Chongqing North Railway Station is nominally a single location. Train tickets only state this one name, and people naturally assume that any train platform is accessible from all entrances, as with every other station I have ever known.
However, unbeknown to millions of travellers, Chongqing North consists of two juxtaposed structures called the North Square and South Square. Bizarrely, it was not possible to pass to the other side, either on foot or through the underground carpark, for a long time.
The main issue is that the China Railway High-speed (CRH) bullet trains known in Chinese as ‘He xie hao和谐号,’ all leave from North Square, while the older and slower trains all leave from the south side.
This anomaly has never been given any meaningful publicity, with the result that thousands of people scoured the station in a futile and desperate attempt to find their train, only to be informed they were indeed at Chongqing North, but on the wrong side!
Considering the north and south squares are right next to each other, surely there’s a walkway connecting the two, or a thoroughfare for cars parked on the wrong side?
I’m afraid not! For years, the only solution was to exit the premises, and walk almost half an hour round the block along the main road, or make the same 2.4 kilometre journey by car.
Sounds too ridiculous to be true, right? But I’m telling you the truth.
Well, to date, this monumental headache was only been partially remedied. In 2017, a 100 metre long underground walkway was officially opened for travellers heading southwards on presentation of a valid ticket.
Why an open passageway wasn’t built for passengers travelling in either direction is a riddle of equal perplexity.
There is still no solution for drivers who arrive at the wrong square. The only way to reach the other side is to exit the station and drive five minutes round the block. This is precisely what I fell victim to last night, and is the motivation driving me to write this post now.
The family just told me they would arrive at 7:18pm at Chongqing North. They usually take the CRH, and I just assumed that would be the case. But no! After waiting ten minutes at the designated rendez-vous point, I received a desperate call saying they were unexpectedly at the south square. They had obviously taken a normal train, and only realised where they were on asking an attendant.
Three metro lines now run through Chongqing North, but typically, none of them stop at both sides! There is one desperate measure you can take, though. Two and a half kilometres to the west is a metro station called Minan Dadao民安大道站 where it is possible to interchange between Line Ten and the Circle Line, then travel back the same distance to the other side.
Apart from these, there are no other solutions other than familiarising yourself before your journey and planning carefully.
The golden rule;
CRH bullet trains leave from the north square, while normal and express trains leave from the south side.
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