Passengers in Reading are being asked to prepare themselves for 10 days of changes to train services as their new station arrives this Easter.
Staff from Network Rail, First Great Western and Reading Borough Council are on hand from 7.30am until 6.30pm on Tuesday 19th and Wednesday 20th March to answer questions about the £895m investment in the area which includes the upgrade of the station and work to unblock the bottleneck on the railway.
From Friday 29th March to Sunday 7th April there is planned disruption to train services, with passengers being urged to check before they travel. From Tuesday 2nd April commuters will be able to use the station’s four new platforms, two new entrances and a spectacular new link bridge for the first time.
Bill Henry, Network Rail programe director, said: “We realise it will be an inconvenience to passengers to plan alternative routes while we undertake the most ambitious part of this massive project to date. If there was any other way that we could deliver the improvements we would do it. But passengers should understand that during the 10 days of disruption to train services we plan to achieve as much as we could in 20 weekends of work.
“By compressing together the work we need to do we are on target to finish the upgrades one year ahead of schedule in 2015. This Easter is an historic one at Reading – as it will see the wonderful new parts of the station being opened to the public for the first time. It will also see the biggest commissioning of new track, signalling and infrastructure works at one time in the history of Network Rail. We have a huge task ahead of us, but all of this is only possible through the patience of the travelling public and for that I would like to thank them.”
During the ten-day period, the platforms that trains arrive into and depart from will change, and passengers are being asked to check which platform their trains will depart from on arrival at the station. First Great Western will have staff on hand to help customers while they get used to the changes.
First Great Western managing director, Mark Hopwood, said: “The works taking place over Easter are the most extensive phase of the upgrade scheme to date. Network Rail is doing a fantastic job improving Reading station and we’re looking forward to unveiling the latest phase in the redevelopment of our station to customers after Easter.
“We have sought to minimise disruption to our customers’ journeys as far as possible as Network Rail carries out these essential works, which will mean improved journeys for thousands of rail passengers. However, many journeys will be affected and I’d encourage anyone travelling through Reading and surrounding stations during this period to check their journeys before they travel.”
After the first phase of the new station opens on 2nd April, there will be around 12 months of further improvement works. These will include the demolition of the old link bridge and replacing old canopies and platforms, bringing them up to the standard of the new parts of the station.
By spring 2014, the entire station upgrade will be complete, with the whole project, including a new viaduct to unblock the bottleneck on the railway, remaining on course to be finished in 2015 – one year ahead of schedule.
Passengers and the public are also set to benefit from work Reading Borough Council is doing to improve the areas outside the station’s two new entrances.
Tony Page, Reading Borough Council’s lead councillor for regeneration, transport and planning, said: “When complete the council’s new interchanges, to the north and the south of the station, will markedly enhance the environment in and around the station, providing much improved facilities for pedestrians, cyclists and bus and taxi passengers.
“The opening of the newly re-furbished subway underneath the station creates a route right into the town centre for people approaching the station from the northern side. For the tens of thousands of passengers who use Reading station every day, including a great many Reading residents of course, the new station will be a huge improvement.”
The station upgrades are just one part of the Reading improvement scheme, which also includes the construction of a new train care depot, a viaduct to provide more room for trains, the widening of Cow Lane, new signalling to improve reliability and the introduction of overhead electrical lines to allow new state-of-the-art electric trains to run.
Network Rail started work to build the new viaduct in January 2013.