THE final touches are being made to the impressive new train station at Southend Airport.

With its opening only months away, the Echo enjoyed an exclusive sneak peek at the £12million building alongside the new control tower.

The completion of the station and control tower will mark the first stage of ambitious £35milion plans to upgrade the airport into a gateway to continental Europe, in preparation for the 2012 London Olympics.

The vision is for passengers from the airport to be whisked by train from to the Olympic site, in Stratford, East London, in about 45 minutes.

The steel-framed structure of the station has been built and contractor Birse is now putting in the doors, laying a vinyl floor downstairs and putting up electronic displays.

The two-storey station has a futuristic design, with large windows at either end of the walkway.

There is a staff room, a ticket office and a kiosk for a coffee shop.

CCTV cameras have already been installed.

Staff from Stobart Group, which operates the airport, rather than train operator National Express, will meet passengers getting off the train on the 250m-long platform.

Jo Marchetti, the airport’s community affairs co-ordinator, said: “We want people using the station to have a completely different experience from other stations.

“When people arrive here to use the airport, staff will be able to advise them on their onward journey.”

The new car park, with 326 spaces, has already been built in front of the station.

Matt Severs, Stobart client representative, said: “We are very happy with the way it’s gone so far.

“There have been some delays, but everything is going well.

“We are pretty much ready to go. It will be nice when the landscaping is complete in the car park.”

The new terminal building is being constructed opposite the station and the two will be linked by a covered walkway for passengers.

The control tower looms tall to the north and a new road layout links all of the buildings to the Harp House roundabout, where a new airport entrance is planned.

The £3million tower is almost complete and should be open in February.

The 38m-high structure will be kitted out with the latest equipment and airport staff trained how to use it.

Unlike the old, two-storey tower, which is about a third of the height and was built only as a temporary measure in the Sixties, controllers will be able to see much further around the airfield and beyond.

The six-storey building has an administration office and radar room, as well as lots of storage.

Ms Marchetti said: “It’s very exciting to see things finally happening at the airport.

“It’s good to see Stobart’s investment resulting in all the development taking place.

“Stobart said it would invest and everything it said would happen, has.We are very positive about the future.”

As well as the £10million terminal, which is due to open at the airport late next year, planning permission has been granted for a £10million hotel at the Harp House roundabout.

Work to divert Eastwoodbury Lane, to allow the extension of the runway, was expected to start this autumn, but could be held up by a judicial review requested by anti-extension campaigners.

Stobart wants to increase passenger numbers by 2020, from the present 48,000 a year to about two million.