In Print: Bloomberg
Simon Dawson for Bloomberg
Photography by Kim Badawi
On a recent afternoon at Paris’s Gare du Nord train station, a man leans against a lamppost with an empty wine bottle at his feet and spouts a jet of pink vomit over a parking bay for public bicycles.
Locals hurry by, avoiding looking at the man, while visitors stare in fascinated horror.
Everyday occurrences like these at Europe’s busiest train station, where the Eurostar brings millions of passengers from London, earned Gare du Nord the label of a “squalor pit” from a U.K. businessman this month. The station’s role as a gateway to France made it a symbol of the nation’s decline for John Lewis Partnership Plc Managing Director Andy Street, who said the country is “finished.”
“Nothing works and worse, nobody cares,” he said, comparing Gare du Nord with the “modern, forward-looking” St Pancras International, the Eurostar station in London.
While Street later apologized for going “too far,” his words hit a nerve in France, where President Francois Hollande’s popularity has melted away as the country struggles to save its much-touted welfare model amid near-record unemployment, a widening budget deficit and stagnant growth.
“Symbols and images count,” Prime Minister Manuel Valls said during a visit to London soon after Street’s comments, pledging that an upgrade was in the cards for the station that gets 200 million travelers a year, more than five times the 36 million for St Pancras.
Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg
Comparing Gare du Nord with the “modern, forward-looking” St Pancras International, the... Read More
As unlikely a symbol as it is, for the people who transit through or have a foothold at Gare du Nord, the 150-year-old station encapsulates both the worst and the best of France.