Newcastle Central station is set to undergo a major revamp as part of a multi-million pound transformation project.

East Coast announced the £8.6 million programme will allow the facility to become a new gateway to the city and the wider north-east region. Newcastle Central station already features stunning Victorian architecture and the investment will help to reinvigorate and build upon this image. It is the first sight that visitors will have of the city and give them a welcoming first impression and goes hand-in-hand with the regeneration of the area.

Officials explained the centrepiece of the redevelopment programme will be the pedestrianisation and glazing of the station's front portico. The space is currently used by taxis but will be significantly modernised to enclose the area and provide protection from the weather. Retail space will also be significantly upgraded with more choices being created for passengers and it will rival that on offer at the refurbished London King's Cross.

Commuter facilities will also be upgraded with better toilets and clearer signage to guide people around the station. East Coast and Network Rail are keen to honour the heritage of the structure and the architecture will be at the heart of the new design while simplifying the layout to provide sightlines toward the Castle Keep.

Phil Verster, Network Rail route managing director, said: "Newcastle station is an incredibly busy and important transport hub for the north-east. These improvements will help passengers to get the best from the listed building. Significantly, the finished station will also give a better first impression to visitors to the city."

Miller Construction has been appointed as the company to take on this major project and will start work on the structure in May. Newcastle-based Ryder Architecture has already laid out plans which include the new pedestrianised section which will be the showpiece event of the station.

Improving infrastructure has been a keen focus in the north-east with nearby Sunderland enjoying a total revamp of its station with Nexus investing £7 million to bring the facility into the 21st century. The station was completed in May 2010 and has since featured on computer giant Intel's advertising campaign.

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