TRAIN users have welcomed a scheme which could revamp Cheltenham's "drab" railway station and turn it into a facility fit for the 21st century.
The tender to run the station has been put out and Cheltenham Borough Council wants the winning bid to bring "a sense of grandeur" befitting the town.
Councillor John Rawson said the council wanted to see an improved layout for cars, buses, taxis, pedestrians and cyclists and more car parking, possibly with a decked car park.
Other potential alterations could mean longer platforms to ease congestion, an extension of the Honeybourne Line cycle route to Lansdown Road and the renovation of the station building, restoring the old portico, which was removed in 1961.
The changes have been prompted by news of a more frequent service to London, as the line between Swindon and Kemble is doubled.
Landlord of the Midland Hotel, John Dix, said: "Events like race days see thousands of people through the station. We are unbelievably busy, with capacity constantly full.
"We can bring in four months' revenue in just four days in March and last year we sold nearly 30,000 pints in that time. The festivals, football and rugby matches all see the station used well and is a benefit we definitely recognise."
Student Alex Poad, 19, of Roman Road, is a regular train user as he goes shopping in Gloucester. He said the station was "drab".
"It would be good to restore it to its Victorian past, as long as fares do not go up. Public transport is expensive enough," he said. "The train station is well used and I try to avoid it on race days because it is so ridiculously busy."
Football fan Gary Welsh, from the Prior's Estate, travels across the country by rail as a Liverpool Football Club season ticket-holder.
The 41-year-old machine operator said it needed tidying up, adding: "It would be nice to see some of its original character stay with the station and it is in need of modernisation.
"The toilets need modifying and it would be good if there could be more security in place for bikes.
"When it is busy, the platform can be a nightmare. It is okay for me on my own, but I feel for those with children and OAPs."
Mr Rawson, cabinet member for built environment, said the Government shake-up of the rail franchise was a major opportunity for the town.
He said: "Cheltenham Spa is a thriving station in terms of passenger numbers, but the station is a disappointment and hardly gives visitors the right message about Cheltenham.
"We want it to be a station fit for the 21st century.
"It used to be a grand and elegant building and it could be again."
The Regency building at the station was designed by architect Samuel Whitfield Daukes.
Bids to run the station, currently managed by First Great Western, have to be submitted by March 31.
The new contract will run from April 2013 for at least 15 years.