The stations are the reason to play TtR:E. They prevent huge point swings from one card. Even without the long tickets, failing a 10 point card is a 20 point swing, +10 to -10. Also, the board is designed to be tight in the center, so you need the stations.
I totally agree. I see the stations as the reason for choosing Europe above other Ticket to Rides when playing with beginners (children, for example). Stations make the game less hard and cutthroat.