Gare Maritime, Port de Boulogne

Built: 1952

Closed: 2008

Visited: 2012

Port de Boulogne, France

Boulogne which was massively damaged in the Second World War, rebuilt itself into the Channel port in the 1950s and much of the 1960s. Even back in the 80s it was still a major port with two or three million passengers passing through each year. Designed by the architects Georges Popesco and André Lacoste this was a modernist vision of the future with sweeping concrete ramps and a quite unique and complete integration of car ferry terminal with railway station. Delays in the completion of the car ramp saw the official opening delayed until 16 June 1952.

Boulongne vs. Calais

Boulogne lost out to Calais in the end for a variety of reasons. It started with the closing of the Sealink Stena Line car ferry service from Folkstone in December 1991. One year later the final mainstream conventional ferry service, operated by P&O, closed. Various low-profile freight services continued to Folkestone for a few years, together with Hoverspeed’s SeaCat but both ceased not long after the turn of the century. For three long years the port was desolate until Speedferries arrived in May 2004. As with most of the more recent operators, they proved to be a short-lived affair and closed amidst unpaid port dues and an arrested Speed One in late 2008.

‘LD Lines’ are the latest operator to use Boulogne. They operate from the new hub port outside the heart of town. So use of the traditional arrival point for cross-channel passengers has come to an end in 2009. Recent years have not been kind the Gare Maritime remains, but in a continually declining state. Until just a couple of years ago however it was possible to wander around the abandoned railway station with its ripped up railway lines and the adjacent quaysides. Today, chain link fencing prevents even that nostalgic pleasure. Despite its cultural and architectural significance, the only future seems likely to be demolition.

Photos Gare Maritime, Port de Boulogne

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