Staff from Network Rail, First Great Western and Reading Borough Council will be on hand from 8am until 7pm to talk to commuters about what to expect this Christmas.
Network Rail project director, Bill Henry, said: “We’ve spent months preparing for the work we’ll be doing at Christmas and it’s another huge milestone in delivering our drive to transform Reading’s railway. A host of changes will be rung over the festive period which the public should be aware of, including a change to platform numbers at the station, as a new platform is being added, and a temporary diversion at Cow Lane while a new bridge is constructed.
“The two very narrow barrel arches at Cow Lane are notorious bottlenecks. During December and January, we will replace the first of the two Cow Lane bridges with a new structure that will make way for two lanes of traffic, a cycle path and pavement – helping reduce congestion and allowing double-decker buses to use the road. Work to the second bridge will finish in 2015, when motorists will feel the full benefit of the project.
“We’ve worked closely with Reading Borough Council and local residents to plan for the operation. The main work will start at 5pm on Christmas Eve when we’ll close the rail freight line above Cow Lane to start demolishing the existing bridge. On Boxing Day a huge, 66-axle transporter will lift a new 1,600 tonne bridge we’ve built on a near-by site into place.
“Trains will start running again from the next day after we have replaced the tracks. This is obviously a huge task and we’re very thankful for the patience of near-by residents, as well as drivers who will be using diversions until the work finishes on 30 January 2012.”
People will be able to view the work from a platform at in Diary Crest in Portman Road. Demolition will take place on Christmas day between 8am and noon and the lifting of the new bridge into place is planned for 8am until noon on Boxing Day.
As part of the improvements at Reading station a new platform 4, which has been built over the past number of months, will be brought into use over Christmas.
This means several other platforms will be re-numbered. Although most trains will be using the same platforms as before Christmas, albeit with a different platform number, some train services will be using different platforms.
Mark Hopwood, managing director, First Great Western, said: “The major remodelling of First Great Western’s busiest station is perhaps one of the most significant railway upgrade schemes currently being undertaken anywhere in the country. It’s a challenging and exciting time to be at the helm of such a large scale project.”
Tony Page, lead councillor for regeneration, transport and planning at Reading Borough Council, said: “Reading is a critical location on the national rail network. I am delighted that after many years of lobbying by Reading Borough Council we are now at a point where passengers - including many Reading residents themselves - can see real progress being made. The benefits to the network and to residents in Reading are substantial. The project also provides the council with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to provide much improved and long-awaited public realm both to the north and south of the station which will complement the Network Rail scheme and help deliver a world class station for everyone.”
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