Last Stop: Stadium

The New U2 Creates a Link to the Heart of the Football Feast

Workers celebrate the end of construction at the U2 | Photo: wien.gov

The opening on May 10th of the U2 extension was a major media event, generating curiosity and expectation throughout town. One of the five existing Viennese subway lines, it connects the “Karlsplatz” station along the west side of the 1st District, past “Schottenring” through the 2nd District to the Prater Park, Ernst Happel Football Stadium and the Krieau Harness Racing Track –

just in time for the EURO 2008, the European Football Championships.

The construction of the new “Herminengasse” exit at Schottenring took place right outside my window. After two years of around the clock torture from the constant drilling and mess of construction, I walked down to check it out.

The Vienna subway network one of Europe’s youngest – only 40 years old – and certainly one of the easiest to use. Above ground, it’s one of the oldest, however. Trains have been running along city streets for over a century, ever since the first steam engines rolled along inner city tracks in 1898. The first modern U-Bahn was launched 1976 between Heiligenstadt and Friedensbruecke. From then on network extensions have been almost a yearly occurrence. Further extensions are planned for the U1 and U4, as well as the creation of a U5 line, although nobody will say exactly when.

I arrived at the entrance and stopped in surprise: Why was everybody taking the elevator and not the stairs? But as the shiny new, state of the art elevator lowered me deep into the ground, I understood that the station itself is very far down. It has to be to pass under the Danube Canal between the 1st and 2nd Districts.

The station smelled fresh, clean, new – and in so many little ways different from the “old”, dark, smelly, overcrowded subway stations.

As I stepped out of the elevator, I got confused: “Should I go left or right?” Then I saw the new, spiffy maps showing all the stations and possible connections. Since this subway is going to become the most important transport for football fans during the EURO 2008, it is very important that the map be clear. I nodded: The word “Stadium” will be very easy to read, even after few beers.

This station, though, is important for more that EURO tourism. After the last ball is kicked and the fans have left, the new line will make it more comfortable to reach the Prater, where we can lose ourselves in the seemingly endless greenery or the silliness of the fun park.

The ‘’Stadium’’ exit – like the preceding “Messe” and “Krieau” – is one of the few above ground stations in the system. The arena comes into full view as you emerge out of the ground into what feels like a small forest. Leaving the station by the broad stairs (the expected masses have been taken into account) on your left is a second Ferdi Dusika Stadium and a new shopping mall.

The city is puffing with pride. ‘’We have done a lot in such a short time, and continue to develop,’’ said the manager of the U2 construction, Kurt Hofling in an interview for this article. A project that started in 2000, and has cost around 1.2 million Euros, the construction of the U2 extension, has reached its aim of connecting people, no longer do football fans have to ‘’travel in slow trams packed like sardines, that leave them still with a ten minute walk to the stadium,’’ – and is now able ‘’to reach people in areas like Aspernstrasse, and Trabenstrasse, who are more limited in terms of transportation,’’ continued Hofling.

‘’This is very convenient, as I live near Taborstrasse, and always had to take a bus to Praterstern, to then take the tram, when I go to soccer games.’’ said local soccer fan Arny Fieltz.

Every medal has two sides. Protest had from people that are worried with the future Prater Park the overcrowding of a fragile recreational area.

‘’When the capacity of the metro is reached, the gate will close and force the excess crowd to wait for the next train,’’ explained Hofling.

That doesn’t really explain the problem of overcrowdings of the Prater Park.

As one who has lived to tell the tale I am happy about the new connection. I can finally open my windows without enduring loud construction noise and dust.

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