Network Rail is leading a huge £500m project centred around Reading station on the Great West Main Line (GWML) which will also provide a new flyover and reinstate a dive-under allowing more trains to operate.
Away from the Thameslink project, the Reading area upgrade is the largest bespoke project Network Rail (NR) is undertaking.
It will provide five new platforms, see the provision of a flyover to the west of the station and re-instate a diveunder to the east of the station.
These new grade separated junctions will reduce delays due to capacity constraints for all First Great Western services and allow far easier access for Arriva Cross Country trains, both of which serve Reading on a very frequent basis.
The South West Trains’ services to and from Waterloo will also benefit with the provision of an extra platform and the doubling of the connection at the east end of the station. Once completed, the project will also allow a massive increase in services benefitting passengers and freight companies alike.
The project is anticipated to allow for a 30% increase in train services and to reduce delays.
Freight services will become more reliable and probably more frequent with the new track layout which is a key junction on the route to Southampton Docks from all over the UK rail network.
The principle contractors involved are Bam Nuttal, Buckingham Construction, Carillion, Costain and Invensys Rail.
New maintenance depots are to be built to the west of the station ready for the InterCity Express Train (IEP) when they are ordered. Another new depot for First Great Western will be built to replace the existing one in the Reading Triangle to the west of the station. The land this occupies is required to accommodate the western flyover.
Freight first tracks were removed just over a year ago to the north of the station to allow work to commence.
The main part of the station works was commenced in September with digging holes to support the erection of protective hoarding along platforms 4 and 9 at the end of the month. The concrete on this platform was found to be twice as deep as thought and contained many service pipes etc which could not be disturbed.
The old station buildings were and are still being subjected to the usual asbestos survey. Sections of canopies along platform 4 will be removed for ease of access to the buildings and replaced with temporary ones but some gaps will remain on a short term basis.
A new platform 4 is being built to the east (London side) of the station which will provide a new platform for Gatwick and Waterloo services. The single lead connection from Reading station to the Southern will be doubled, eliminating this bottleneck.
Most of platform 9 has been boarded up and most of the canopy has been removed. At the west end of this platform is a huge mound of rubble, the remnants of the 1960s signalbox and other station buildings that have been demolished. Much of this will be re-used as hardcore in future building in the project.
These have just changed to upgraded systems with effect from the start of November and include new screens and announcements.
First Great Western has started a newsletter this month called Reading Station News. This will be available at Reading station, on trains and emailed to season ticket holders.
The excellent work that the various railway Public Relations teams at Reading are carrying out is at risk from over zealous platform staff. The author was stopped by no less than three FGW staff saying that photography was not allowed and that anyone taking photographs had to sign in.
This is plainly NOT the case and there is an inalienable right for anyone to take photographs in a public place as there is no presumption of privacy by anyone who is in a public place. If you are challenged, do not get angry but explain the above principle.
One reply is that ‘You have to sign in’. Ask why because passengers do not have to sign in so why should a photographer?