Bus station terminal tender a bust

Riga’s central Soviet-era bus station, long-slated for development but stalled in pre-planning stage for more than a decade, may have to wait another five years for a solution, as the latest tender for its total redesign failed to produce a single tangible result.

On Monday the internationally publicized tender for the overdue overhaul of the drab structure however garnered no victors, as none were able to field draft projects that would have kept passenger bus service running parallel to ongoing construction works.  

The Riga International Passenger Bus Terminal authority, the company that has hosted both domestic and foreign travelers here all these years, instead granted five fostering prizes worth €1300 each rather than pay out the single allotted €20,000 grand prize.

The precisely half-century old terminal building will therefore be marking its 50th anniversary this year without so much as a facelift, let alone a future vision.

The passenger bus terminal services an average of 400 routes a day, 60 of which are international destinations. Each year about 2.3 million passengers arrive or depart through here, an average of 6,500 daily.

Annual turnover is about €2.5m.

The terminal authority’s technical director Janis Igaunis told LSM there isn’t much time left to dilly-dally before the already beyond-capacity facility starts to turn decrepit. He gives it five years, tops, until critical point.

“We are lodged into a very narrow territory and spatial constraint. This structure and zone has been heavily utilized for fifty years straight. Plenty of expert reports call for repairs and reconstruction,” he said, however insisting that there was no risk to public safety.

The bus terminal is indeed tucked into a rather crowded corner strip between Old Town’s canal, tram tracks, Central Market, Railroad Bridge and riverside warehouse district, that is difficult to access for the flow of pedestrians, tram riders and bus passengers who must jostle past each other there.

The architects who took part in the draft design tender feel cheated, as the prize monies were reduced to just €6500, moreover split five ways.

Peteris Bajars, whose ambitious project envisioning the total liquidation of the central structures received much praise, called the decision “toothless.”

“Of course, if they want to develop things here they must coordinate with the historic center authorities, the surrounding organizations, the Central Market. If they suddenly announce that’s beyond our jurisdiction and competence that means we don’t have any motivation to try, we’ll just collect the five best projects for a cheap consolation prize. Thanks, and have a happy Architecture Day,” Bajars ripped the tender, ironically.

On the other hand, architect Reinis Liepins of the design firm Sudraba arhitektura, whose project would have kept the original early-modern style building intact – but encased totally in glass, agreed that the terminal authority’s decision was incomprehensible.

“This place has great potential. There’s the canal, the riverside, the wonderful market hangers. What we wanted to do with our project was to keep the flow of pedestrians connected to Old Town,” Liepins said.

Another factor in the mix is the problem of per-vehicle entry fees to the passenger transport companies that run the bus services. Many fear that if prohibitive predatory price gouging is reduced due to government plans to amend current regulations in the interests of fairness, the terminal authority may just shut-out regional domestic bus services and force a panicked search for an alternative temporary terminal elsewhere in town.

“This could open new opportunities for illegal services that we’ve been trying to fight already for years,” warned Uldis Kolužs, owner of the Bauska regional bus station and chief of the Association of Bus Stations and Regional Passenger Transport firms.

However, the terminal authority, facing projections for less of this fee-based income, obviously cannot plan any longer for the essential remake of its very own headquarters.

 

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