IMPROVEMENTS to Worcester Foregate Street station will make the city more welcoming to visitors, said MP Robin Walker.

He was speaking at the official opening of the station yesterday (Friday, March 14) following the completion of a £785,000 project to upgrade the entrances and ticket office areas.

He said: "Foregate Street is the gateway to Worcester, with over a million people passing through it a year, and this renovation is a major improvement to the look and feel of the station. It's vital that the station is as welcoming as possible, because it's the first thing visitors by rail see as they arrive."

He also called on Network Rail and train operating companies to continue improving services, with half-hourly trains to Birmingham, hourly trains to London, and a new Worcester Parkway station.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester, president of rail users' group the Cotswold Line Promotion Group, said he also welcomed the upgrade.

He said: "This is the busiest station in the county by quite a long way. It's part of a pattern of increasing use of public transport, including the railways, which are busier than any time since 1922."

The work involved replacement of old canopies and entrances, automatic doors at both entrances, new double- decker cycle racks, improvements to the travel centre and, to come soon, bigger and better electronic information boards.

The upgrade was a collaboration between London Midland, Worcestershire County Council and Network Rail, with funding from the Department of Transport. It followed a £1.1 million restoration of the bridge over Foregate Street, which was completed last year.

The project is is part of a major overhaul of the county transport network, which also included a £500,000 rebuild of Malvern Link station.

Earlier yesterday, West Worcestershire MP Harriett Baldwin unveiled a plaque at the station, where the work included new buildings on both platforms and a new access from Osborne Road.

She said: "I am pleased that the work to improve Malvern Link train station is now complete and is another chapter in the re-vitalisation of the town.

"I welcome the fact that the work was planned with the input of the civic society and other local experts to ensure that they are in keeping with the station's heritage. I am also working with the county council on a pavement upgrade.

"I will continue to press for investment to improve the number, reliability and frequency of services from this station."