Lincoln High Street is one step closer to a long-awaited footbridge over the level crossing, to ease congestion and waiting times for pedestrians.
Work officially began to remodel the property at 179 High Street on Friday, October 10.
Lincoln MP Karl McCartney and Network Rail Route Managing Director Phil Verster launched the start of the works at the former Superdrug and The Sleep Shop units.
The target date for completion of the High Street bridge is October 2015.
Network Rail are investing £12 million in the bridges, along with a second over the Brayford Wharf level crossing.
As previously reported, work to the Brayford footbridge will begin much later than the High Street project due to the discovery of unmapped utilities.
Network Rail expect the Brayford Wharf level crossing bridge to reach completion around March 2016.
Managing Director at Network Route Managing Director Phil Verster said: “I can’t stress how important this is as well as the Brayford footbridge.
“Lincoln High Street, as well as Brayford Wharf are the two highest risk level crossings in my area.
“By putting the footbridges in place, what we actually provide is 24 hour, seven days a week, opportunity for pedestrians to cross the railways safely.
“The two bridges will cost around £12 million, but the risk reduction that we will see will certainly justify that.
“The first steps on the project here on the High Street are not going to be very visible to the public. It will be diversion of services such as cabling and water pipes.
“Around January time, the public will start to see us demolish the current building (formerly occupied by Superdrug and Sleep Shop) and start construction.”
Lincoln MP Karl McCartney has campaigned against the issue of the high risk level crossing alongside other transport issues.
He said: “One of the main things for me was, yes the footbridge, but I didn’t want Network Rail to be given permission to close the road to vehicles and pedestrians, so the outcome is great.
“I’m very pleased to see that as a city we are getting there with transportation. I also want people to know that the city of Lincoln is a very welcoming destination. It’s a momentous moment for the people who live and work here but also the people who visit.
“Today’s event is definitely a positive step forward that I welcome, as we work to address the disruption and risk to the public posed by these level crossings that cut the city I represent in half.”
Plans for the High Street footbridge were approved by the city council in January.
Network Rail has sought advice from Lincolnshire County Council, City of Lincoln Council, English Heritage, University of Lincoln, the Brayford Trust, Lincoln business groups and local residents as part of the design and development of the two footbridges.
City of Lincoln Council leader Ric Metcalfe said: “We’re getting very close to the point where we are going to finally see this footbridge built which has been an aspiration of the council’s for many many years.
“There used to be an old wooden footbridge here that fell into disrepair. The new footbridge will be well designed, there will be lifts and it will reduce the impact on the High Street created by the rail corridor.
“This, combined with the new East West Road link will mean that both pedestrians and traffic will be able to move around the city centre far more easily.”