MULTI-million pound plans to improve Taunton Station and give passengers a better first impression of the town are at an advanced stage.

Under the scheme, people arriving by train would no longer have to walk under the scruffy pigeon-infested bridge to reach the town centre.

Instead, they would be able to walk along a boulevard with scenic views of the River Tone or catch a bus or taxi from a proposed transport interchange.

Great Western Railway is looking to shift the main entrance from the north to the south of the 175-year-old station, with a glazed lobby area.

Outside could be a public realm, a renewed pedestrian area alongside Station Road, forecourt, taxi rank, parking and a hotel, with a direct pedestrian link through the proposed Firepool development.

A GWR spokesman said the firm has produced initial design options, which it is optimistic will achieve approval this summer.

He added: "We are extremely keen to see progress and have been working with Taunton Deane Council, Somerset County Council, and the Heart of the South West LEP to agree a design which will deliver the most improvement within budget.

"Until such a time as that approval is granted, it is difficult to say more."

Taunton Deane MP Rebecca Pow said she has secured "a major tranche of money" from the Government, working with other local stakeholders.

She added: "I have been concerned that progress on getting started has been slow for various reasons and I have been continuing to work with those concerned to get some movement on this.

"I am delighted to hear that GWR are now making some further progress.

"This project is extremely important for Taunton, the county town of Somerset, not just for the local people, but for the wider region where Taunton is such a significant transport hub.”

Passenger numbers at Taunton Station are set to increase dramatically over the next five years.

A Taunton Deane Borough Council spokeswoman said: "Taunton’s fast and direct rail connections are particularly important to link the town to London, the South West and the wider UK, and to encourage businesses to invest and grow in the town.

"An improvement already scheduled for next year is a fast hourly service direct to and from London Paddington so providing a vastly improved service.

"Taunton Deane Borough Council continues to work closely with GWR and key partners and welcomes progress on plans to improve the railway station and connect it better to the town centre."

Deane House leader Cllr John Williams said: “Taunton is one of the best connected towns in the South West with excellent rail links.

"As a garden town, a modern railway station is key to our ambitions to develop and grow as we need first class infrastructure and a high quality public transport interchange.

“Improved services, along with a refurbished and enlarged station are essential to support our own economic growth plans and the town’s new status as an international cricket venue.”