Could there be a more symbolic time for Ningbo’s new South Station to open than on the crest of the year of the horse? Long associated with movement, progress and vivacity, the horse is a symbol that can easily be tied to transportation. Whether those who planned, designed and built the new South Station were aware of this symbolism or it has happened simply by coincidence, use of the new Nanzhan will be very much underway by the time the new year comes around.
Ningbo South Railway Station opened to the public on September 29, 1959. In those days, the South Railway Station had only one platform. Throughout the 1980s, Ningbo South Railway Station underwent a great deal of changes. One of the biggest milestones was the addition of two Ningbo-Shanghai express trains, which were launched in September of 1986, the first of their kind in Ningbo.
In February 1988, the South Station was renovated with an investment of more than 3.4 million RMB. After the renovation, the 5060 m2 terminal building featured two station halls, was equipped with a central air-conditioning system, and could hold up to 3000 passengers, making it one of the largest and most modern stations of its day. The Ministry of Railways started to rebuild the Xiaoshan-Ningbo railway in 1996, greatly increasing capacity and the frequency of trains which passed through the station. Later, other cities were connected to Ningbo through the South Station, such as Beijing, Guangzhou, Jilin and Chengdu.
On September 8th, 2010, the South Railway Station was closed down temporarily. On October 16th, 2010, the 2.25 billion yuan South Railway Station project was officially launched.
The new South Station boasts an innovative design with fluid lines and a variety of features that are at once modern and pay tribute to Ningbo’s cultural past. The station was designed domestically by the renowned Tong Ji University’s Architectural Design Institute and the Third Railway Survey and Design Institute to ensure the building would emerge as forward-thinking modern architecture with Chinese characteristics.
The design centres around the theme of water, perhaps the most important element to Ningbo culture and history. Soft, undulating lines pay homage to the flow of the rivers and oceans that have been breathing life into Ningbo for thousands of years.
The station also features two ‘eyes’ which change color throughout the year in order to symbolise different traditional Chinese festival seasons, making the station even more impressive at night.
The construction of the new South Station has taken three years and two months to this point. At times, more than 2,300 workers were putting their backs into the station simultaneously. With an investment of more than RMB 12 billion, it is one of the largest development projects in Ningbo’s history. The project is grand in scale with a construction area of more 120,000 m2 and massively complex, as the construction needed to account for the eventual connection to Metro and city bus lines.
Spending time inside the station, especially when it is devoid of the inevitable hum of people going from place to place gives one a perspective of just how massive an undertaking this project has been. Without the human presence, it was easy to see just how logically things have been designed.
Perhaps the best feature of the station, and there are many great features, is that it sits proudly in the middle of old downtown Ningbo near Moon Lake. While the main stations in other cities tend to lie well outside of anywhere one would need to be, visitors stepping out of the South Station will be stepping right into the heart and soul of Ningbo.
Though Ningbo East Station has served the city well during its tenure, it is clear that the explosion of growth in Ningbo has brought about the need for a transportation hub which can serve the varied and expansive needs of the people. Now, as we approach the year of the horse, Ningbo is home to a transportation station befitting a city that has, for millenia, linked different cities of China to each other, and China to the outside world.
Photos by David Straughan