LIFT-OFF has been declared for Worcestershire Parkway - with work finally getting underway to bring the railway station to reality.

Clearance work has kicked off on the 14-acre Norton site, with vegetation starting to be removed from the fields ahead of the mammoth construction project.

The Worcester News was given a tour of the land today, which is due to undergo a rapid transformation to turn it from a mudbath into a thriving train facility in 2018.

A team from the Buckingham Group are now preparing the land for construction, with a tree already gone, debris being removed and species like slow worms due to be boxed off in the presence of an ecologist.

Designs are due to be finalised for the actual station within weeks, before construction starts in September or October - meaning the firm has six months to get the site completely ready.

Worcestershire County Council described today's starting point as a "significant milestone" as the first sod was cut.

Councillor Ken Pollock, County Hall's cabinet member for economy, skills and infrastructure, said: "The start of work on-site marks a significant milestone and demonstrates continued progress on this vitally important scheme.

"Once complete the station will provide improved rail accessibility and connectivity to and through Worcestershire."

Marc Riley, framework director for rail at the Buckingham Group, added: "We're delighted to be working with the council to help deliver an exciting new landmark."

The station is costing upwards of £22 million and has the backing of the Department for Transport, with £8.3 million of Government cash ploughed into it.

Worcester News:

The council is borrowing cash to fund the rest, but says money from the 500-space car park and train operator fees will pay it all off over 25 years.

Gary Woodman, from Worcestershire's Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), today said it was "great to hear" that work had started.

"The station will modernise our rail infrastructure," he said.

It will be operated by Great Western Railway (GWR), accepting train services ran by both GWR and CrossCountry.

Once in operation it will make it easier for commuters to use the vital North Cotswold rail link between Worcester, Oxford and London Paddington.

It will also access services which currently pass through Worcestershire on the Birmingham and Bristol railway lines without stopping.

Worcester News:

The rights over Worcestershire Parkway sparked a bitter spat with a rival developer, Norton Parkway Developments, but the council eventually secured the go-ahead from ministers and managed to avoid a protracted legal wrangle.