VIRGIN Trains boss Carl Belcher has outlined plans for a major overhaul of Bank Quay station in an exclusive interview with the Warrington Guardian.

The managing director of West Coast Mainline services said work on the £500,000 plus project will start in the first quarter of next year.

Mr Belcher said plans include a car park expansion, a first class lounge and a possible move for the taxi rank to improve access.

The station sits on the West Coast Mainline but is in such a dilapidated condition that a solicitor's firm told the Guardian last year it was embarrassed' about clients arriving there.

"Embarrassing? I wouldn't use such a strong term. It's a great disappointment," said Mr Belcher "It's a gateway for a lot of people coming to Warrington and I think it's a long way below expectations, probably because of a lack of long term public investment. I am not seeking to blame the Government for this."

He paused, then added: "Maybe I am."

He said Virgin's plan for the station is well advanced' and work should begin within months.

The company is looking at three ways of doubling car parking spaces by 2008 - building a multi-storey on the existing car park, buying land from Network Rail, or land from another owner.

More car parking spaces at the station have been a prime request from local businesses.

The company is also in talks with Warrington Borough Council about moving the taxi rank.

It is a popular spot for taxis and moving it would be a controversial decision. Cabbies already think they have got a raw deal on town centre ranks and that led to the go-slow protest in spring that brought the town centre to a standstill.

Funding for the work at Bank Quay is coming from Virgin, Warrington Borough Council and the North West Development Agency.

Improvements will also be carried out to the station and booking office.

There will be disabled access, a travel centre, a first class lounge and general improvements to the shabby platforms.

Virgin's plans come after years of work to improve the West Coast Mainline while the stations on it have been relatively neglected.

Mr Belcher added: "A lot has been spent on the tracks and the trains - and the stations are lagging behind."