Construction work has begun on a major project that will deliver a section of Leighton Buzzard's new Eastern Link Road and will see a stretch of the town's narrow gauge railway track diverted.
The scheme forms part of a wider plan to provide homes, retail and community facilities, and a school in the eastern area of Leighton Buzzard.
Funded by developer Arnold White Group, the work will ensure the future of Leighton Buzzard Railway, resulting in the track being moved a short distance away from its original route alongside Vandyke Road in order for it to run under a bridge carrying the new link road.
The project which is already well under way is being carried out by Fox (Owmby) Limited as main contractor, supported by railway contractor Alan Keef Ltd and is due for completion later this year.
Leighton Buzzard Railway general manager Joe Horsley said: "The railway would like to place on record its thanks to all parties involved, including Arnold White Group, Fox (Owmby) Limited, Alan Keef Ltd, Stuart Michael Associates, Central Bedfordshire Council and The Railway Inspectorate, for working together with us to ensure the survival of the town’s major tourist attraction.
"This is an elegant and practical solution to a potentially awkward crossing of road and rail, and we look forward to our customers enjoying the results of this partnership next year."
James Gudgin, contracts director at Fox (Owmby) said: "The diversion includes a 45m long rail underpass, built using 46 precast concrete arch sections and is constructed offline. This allows us to build the diverted section of track, and the bridge without impacting on the railway operations. Once connected in, works to build the link road over the current railway alignment will be completed."
Kate Groves, of developer Arnold White Group, said: "As part of our works at Chamberlains Barn, it was clear that we needed to create an innovative solution which delivers the Leighton Buzzard Eastern Link Road while also keeping the Leighton Buzzard Railway running.
"We are delighted to help to secure the future of Leighton Buzzard Railway and ensure that this significant local tourist attraction can be enjoyed for many years to come.’
The project team has already provided an upgraded access crossing allowing contractors to cross the line during the construction period ensuring the safety of both site workers and passengers on the railway.
The construction will continue throughout the summer months with the new track due to be connected in November once the railway has completed its main operating season.