A Sussex railway station has been branded the grimmest halt on the South Coast between Brighton and Portsmouth.

Community leaders are calling for Durrington station in Worthing to be revamped so it no longer looks like an "inner-city dump".

They are backed by Worthing College principal Peter Corrigan, who is concerned for the safety of teenage students using the station after dark.

But Southern Railway and Network Rail, which share responsibility for it, said there was nothing wrong with Durrington.

Critics of Durrington, built in 1937, said it was forbidding, with sheet steel blocking the windows, high security fences, cameras, graffiti and platform access via a narrow path topped with barbed wire.

Worthing borough councillor Bob Smytherman, leader of the Liberal Democrats, said it was the grimmest station between Brighton and Portsmouth and this attracted antisocial behaviour such as vandalism. He said: "The station is an eyesore. As people pass through they must think Worthing is a dump. They need to make it user-friendly, add a few flowers in the summer and get rid of the steel shutters."

Council leader Keith Mercer said it was a blot on the landscape in desperate need of refurbishment.

Rod Winter, secretary of Field Place Residents' Association which covers Durrington, said: "It is a drab, mucky station that very seldom seems to be manned, which is one of the problems. It leaves itself open to graffiti and vandalism."

Councillor Keith Sunderland said: "Because it is such a dump they must be losing trade. It is very grim. If it's pleasant and welcoming, people are more likely to use trains. It's a great pity it is so uninviting."

Mr Corrigan said: "It is very run down. About one third of our students, 400 to 500 teenagers, use the station and I do worry about security. After 6pm I don't think there are many railway people there but there are still a lot of students and staff travelling at these times.

"It is a huge station in terms of the people coming to work and visit. You have several major employers and a lot of people coming in for meetings. We hope it is going to be an up-and-coming area. It would be good if the station reflected this."

Spokesman Chris Hudson said Southern Railway disagreed with this assessment of the station. He said £15,000 was spent on painting it only last summer and it was "generally clean and tidy". He said it was normally manned until 7.30pm and staff attended to minor vandalism.

He said: "While the structure is old and not aesthetically very pleasing, it is inspected by Network Rail on an annual basis and any works deemed necessary are undertaken."

He said Southern, which was responsible for day-to-day maintenance, had no immediate plans for redevelopment.

Network Rail is responsible for structural issues. A spokesman said it was satisfied the building's condition was sufficient to allow it to run a safely and efficiently. He said the Government only funded Network Rail to maintain the infrastructure, not make "enhancements".