Improvements to railway stations, in preparation for renewal of the Great Western franchise next year, are set to be started by Wiltshire Council.

The £4.5 million plans include general improvements at all the county’s stations, such as walking and cycling maps and signs, real-time travel information, and advertising for local places of interest.

Major improvements are planned for Melksham station coinciding with future plans to upgrade the Westbury to Swindon Trans Wilts service, once the franchise is agreed.

The station will see an expansion of its car park, access from the north for pedestrians, cyclists and buses, as well as secure bike storage and cycling route changes.

Cycle hire schemes will be set up at Trowbridge, Chippenham and Salisbury stations, with improved access to each station and better storage.

Westbury and Warminster stations will also gain improved bike storage and access, and a bus service between the latter station and Longleat will be reintroduced.

Cabinet member for transport Dick Tonge said: “We hope these green improvements will be a real change in how people use public transport in Wiltshire.

“We are being wooed by the rail companies who are competing for the franchise, but we don’t know who is going to win that, and there is another company looking to run a service from Westbury up to the Midlands on the existing track.

“We don’t want to engage fully with service improvements until we know the results, but we can get on with these complementary improvements.”

The plans are being funded with £4.25 million the council has secured from the Department for Transport, and will begin immediately if agreed by the cabinet on Monday.

The four shortlisted bidders for the franchise are previous holder FirstGroup along with Arriva, National Express and Stagecoach, with the announcement made in March next year. The franchise will run from July 2013 until July 2028.

Coun Tonge added the council would continue pressing for the electrification required to bring Corsham station back into use, as well as for more rolling stock on existing lines.