The future of rail travel in Reading slid into view this weekend as the station’s new bridge appeared for the first time above the tracks. Morning commuters were greeted by the sight of a 728 tonne structure straddling the platforms – the first part of a new bridge which will sit at the core of the new station. It landed in its latest resting position at 3.30am on Sunday, having been painstakingly moved into place by Network Rail over two nights .
Precision engineering techniques were used to move the massive structure 28 metres into its permanent position, millimetre-by-millimetre, to within a 20mm tolerance.
It’s a move that leaves the Reading rebuilding project one year ahead of its original schedule, with completion on target for 2015.
The 30-metre wide structure is around three times bigger than the current passenger bridge and will provide quick access to platforms via banks of new lifts and escalators. Later this year, the second and final pieces of the structure will be built on site and joined together.
Network Rail project director, Bill Henry, said:” The first part of the new bridge makes a dramatic difference to Reading’s skyline and gives passengers a glimpse of how the new station will look when the first phase of the development is opened in May 2013.
“The transformation of the station is just one aspect of the multimillion pound project which we continue deliver on time and on budget. This investment in Reading will unblock the bottleneck on the railway, improve commuters’ journeys and provide a station fit for future – as passenger numbers in Reading are set to double by 2030.
“By 2015 we will have built a new train care depot, constructed a viaduct to provide more room for trains, installed new signalling to improve reliability and put in place the structures that will carry over-head electrical lines, allowing new state-of-the-art electric trains to run.”
Brian Fisher, from Costain, Network Rail’s principal contractor for the work at Reading station, said: ”We’re very proud of what we have achieved so far on this flag-ship project. Everything we deliver has to be done around an operational railway which obviously brings its own demands. Our work is proceeding steadily to make ensure the project continues to run like clock-work.”
Mark Hopwood, managing director of First Great Western train operating company, said: “We’ve worked hard with Network Rail to minimise disruption to our customers throughout this project, and they should be commended for completing this challenging piece of engineering work without impacting our service