Rail bosses behind a controversial takeover of the West Coast Mainline have unveiled plans for a major overhaul of Preston Station.
FirstGroup was awarded the contract to run the line from London to Edinburgh but current operator Virgin Trains has launched legal battle to block the £5.5bn deal.
But now FirstGroup, which is due to take over the running of the line on December 9, has today unveiled plans for a major revamp of Preston Station over the next five years.
Among the plans, which is expected to run into millions of pounds, is transforming waiting areas, re-establishing the redundant platform seven, creating a cycling hub, de-cluttering platforms and creating more shops.
Today rail campaigners welcomed the announcement but called on rail bosses to maintain the investment throughout the 13-year franchise.
Richard Parry, who will become managing director of the West Coast Mainline in December, said: “We certainly intend to make significant investment in improving it.
“It will certainly be hundreds of thousands of pounds if not into the small millions over the next five years or so.”
The first priority for the station which last year saw more than 4.16m passengers, will be improved waiting area facilities particularly on platforms three and four.
He said: “We need to raise the quality of the waiting facilities generally. We know Preston can be a waiting interchange and if there is disruption (on the lines) while the situation on the line is being cleared or resolved, it needs to be a place where people can pause.”
Another immediate priority will be making the station easier to get around.
He said: “We need to de-clutter platforms one and two where people can be waiting for a long time. We also want to make improvements in how we use passenger information like bus information, bus routes and cycle routes.
“We will for example, work with the local authority to prepare station travel plans, how we can improve access to and from the station.”
By 2016 FirstGroup has vowed to run another 100 trains into and out of Preston and to meet that capacity, a currently redundant platform could be brought back into use.
He said: “We certainly see opportunities to make that investment and plan for the long-term. We will grow the number of passengers travelling and we want to work with Network Rail on a significant investment which will take five, six or seven years and potentially bring platform seven back into use. That could help to manage the congestion of trains and passengers coming through the station.”
Station bosses are also considering longer-term plans to create a ‘cycle hub’ at the station with storage facilities and a workshop.
Meanwhile FirstGroup, which also currently runs the Transpennine Express from Preston Station, is also planning to improve shops and work with the British Transport Police to improve security, including more CCTV.
He added: “We want to see an improvement by raising the quality of retail facilities along the line.
“We want to respond to the kind of shops people want too see. We know there is an expectation of more high street brands and shops passengers are familiar with.”
Aidan-Turner Bishop of the Lancashire Campaign for Better Transport, said: “It needs upgrading while retaining its historic features because it is a growing and thriving rail hub for the North West.
“If First is going to increase passenger numbers it needs extra facilities to do so. “The rail industry is winning and it should expand confidently and with style.”