A KEY rail station is now staffed for the first time in 53 years after a new £315,000 building opened yesterday.

The new facility at Hanborough station, near Witney, provides a waiting room and customer toilets at a time when passenger journeys are increasing rapidly.

It is hoped the revamp, along with Great Western Railway's upcoming timetable change in December, will help encourage development in West Oxfordshire and reduce pressure on the congested A40.

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Witney MP Robert Courts attended the opening ceremony yesterday and hailed the 'huge leaps' forward.

He said: "Investing in the railway is good for business, it is good for the environment and it is good for the communities of West Oxfordshire - and it is great to see local and national Government joining with customers to secure the new building.

"I have long campaigned for upgrades to the facilities and services at Hanborough, so it is great to see huge leaps forward being taken in terms of improved performance, better trains, improved station facilities and the new timetable due in December, which will deliver more frequent services.”

West Oxfordshire District Council leader, James Mills, added: "Improving rail travel from Hanborough reduces pressure on the congested A40 and supports people who live, work and visit our area.”

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The building was funded by the district council, the Cotswold Line Promotion Group (CLPG), and the National Station Improvement Programme, established by Network Rail to improve stations across the country.

It will be staffed by GWR on weekdays, with further planned additions including cycle parking, bus integration and up to 400 parking spaces.

Meanwhile, West Oxfordshire District Council has also commissioned a study into the current and future role of Hanborough station which will 'ensure a collaborative approach' to future development.

Passenger journeys at the station, which has just one platform, have increased from 95,000 in 2009/10 to 232,000 in 2017/18.

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The new timetable will provide a regular hourly service on the line, with extra services at peak times and faster journeys.

GWR is also funding design work on a new pedestrian and cycle bridge for the A4095, led by Hanborough Parish Council, which aims to improve safety for customers.

The company's commercial development director, Matthew Golton, said: “This marks the start of the realisation of our ambitions to develop the station."

CLPG president, Lord Richard Faulkner, said: It is one of three key access hubs identified by the North Cotswolds Line Taskforce and will be at the forefront of our call for the increased investment in the railway infrastructure we shall need if we are to successfully deliver the more reliable, faster, and more frequent service we are all determined to achieve.”