United Utilities is nearing the end of its £160m project to enhance Preston’s sewer system - to the relief of businesses at a notorious road junction.
The water firm has built a new 3.5km underground storage tunnel beneath the city with the help of a giant robotic mole, which is wide enough to drive a car through.
This month engineers have returned to the Watery Lane and Strand Road intersection.
They will next visit Marsh Lane and the Fishergate Hill area to carry out final preparation and testing work before the project is officially completed at the end of March.
The work began in 2009 and United Utilities (UU) has paid almost £1m in total in loss of profit payments to businesses.
Motorists, shopkeepers and householders in the area have all suffered major disruption, with the We Love Hair salon and Umberto’s fish and chip shop in Watery Lane stuck behind huge hoardings.
Hairdresser Paul Morris, who runs We Love Hair with his business partner Sheldon Ward, said: “They said it would take eight weeks.
“It’s a right noise because of the pneumatic drills.
“They’ve got traffic down to one lane and the lorries, some of them can’t get past now so they keep clattering the traffic lights, which have spun round in a different direction, and we’ve found our steps are cracked because of the vibrations. We will be relieved when it’s over - fingers crossed.”
UU said it would investigate the damage to the steps.
It said the work in each area was being carried out in three phases. The first phase, which involves safety measures such as installing handrails and ladders, started on October 21.
Engineers will return in December for three days to put the sewers into operation, before revisiting in March 2014 for five weeks to permanently disconnect the old sewers.
Janet Clarke, UU project coordinator, said: “We’re delighted one of the biggest engineering schemes Preston has ever seen is coming to an end.
“We always made it clear we would need to return to the city and I would like to reassure businesses that the roads around our working areas will remain open to traffic.”
The new system aims to reduce the amount of waste water entering the River Ribble and comply with European water quality legislation.