PREPARATORY work has started in Blackburn centre for two major railway improvement projects in the town next month.

Traffic is being disrupted on Bridge Street running down from the railway station to George Street with one lane closed.

The work started at the weekend and will last until November 27 as part of Network Rail's £3.5 million Great North Rail Project which will cause extensive disruption to weekend train services throughout November.

The upgrade scheme will see two major projects in Blackburn, one in Burnley and one in Todmorden with rail replacement buses in operation.

On the weekend of November 16 and 17 a redundant railway arch will be filled in at George Street in Blackburn.

That weekend and the following weekend of November 23 and 24 a second scheme will see track drainage improved north of Blackburn station.

The same two weekends will also see a railway bridge over the East Lancashire line is replaced in Towneley in Burnley.

On December 8 track will be renewed through the Kitsonwood Tunnel in Todmorden.

There will be track ballast, work at Lostock Hall Junction near Preston on the East Lancashire line on November 10.

Platforms will be extended at Hall I’th Wood station on the line from Blackburn to Bolton for new Northern trains on the weekends of November 16/17 and 23/24.

On November 10, 16, 17 and 24 and on December 1 and 8 December, replacement buses will serve stations between Preston, Blackburn, Accrington and Burnley.

Anna-Jane Hunter, director for North of England rail, said: “I want to thank passengers and lineside neighbours in advance for their patience while we complete a number of vital upgrades in Preston, Blackburn, Burnley, Bolton and Todmorden later this year. This weekend work taking between 10 November and 8 December is part of the Great North Rail Project to help improve the reliability and performance of rail services across the North.

“If people plan to travel by rail over these weekends, I ask that they plan ahead."

Chris Jackson, regional director at Northern, said: “We are working with colleagues at Network Rail to keep disruption for our customers to a minimum. The work being carried out is vital for the future of the rail infrastructure in Lancashire and will pave the way for more reliable services."