Largely completed during the Covid lockdowns, the transformation of Glasgow Queen Street has yet to be properly celebrated, but it has a huge wow factor, even for passengers who previously passed through while the work was taking place.
It certainly had that effect on me when I visited the station for the first time for 15 months last week, within days of my first train journey since the pandemic struck.
In a similar way to the redevelopment of Haymarket station at the other end of the main line to Edinburgh eight years ago, Queen Street has undergone such a radical spatial transformation that virtually its entire concourse is unrecognisable from its past look.
Arriving passengers will already be familiar with the extraordinary new view out of the station onto George Square which is further enhanced when sunshine illuminates the sandstone.
But now that the main building work is finished, the scale of the new concourse plaza can be fully appreciated under the station’s huge glass facade.
It looks fantastic, and I just hope the assurances I’ve been given that this vast space will be neither too hot in summer nor too cold and draughty in winter are well founded.
The sense of airiness extends to the west side link to the low-level platforms, in perhaps the biggest change of all and one I hadn’t anticipated.
Replacing a gloomy, utilitarian corridor, a glorious top-lit space immediately brings passengers into the daylight after ascending from subterranean trains.
It also provides a much more direct route to the main station, with a cut-through to the platforms dispensing with the need to go through two sets of ticket gates.
The station’s entrances also have a new sense of scale and width, where they were previously narrow openings, through which you had to dodge the congregating smokers.
At the front, the distinctly underwhelming steps past Burger King and through a mini hotel forecourt to reach George Square have made way for a staircase and ramp straight onto the street.
However, the overhaul is by no means finished, with the former car park on the east side of the station still a building site.
This means both good and bad news.
Good news because if that development is approved and completed, it will add far more shops and places to eat and drink – and on multiple levels – than there were before.
But it’s also bad news as there are still no such facilities in the station, an unbelievable five years since they all shut before work started.
There do not even appear to be any temporary stalls – even to get a hot drink – like there were earlier in the project.
To make matters worse, the only coffee shop within a stone’s throw of the station has also now closed.
One other thing – there appears to be little seating on the concourse compared to Network Rail-run Glasgow Central and Edinburgh Waverley, but that may temporary.
But, such quibbles aside, the key point is that ScotRail’s new flagship station – the busiest it operates as sole user – has started an optimistic new chapter in rail’s revival.