Arriving at Reading to catch a train to London you are confronted by one ofthe biggest construction sites in the south.And like many passengers you can't fail to be impressed at the scale of thework.It is in fact the most expensive and ambitious project of its kind ever andif all goes to plan will end daily delays for hundreds of thousands ofpassengers in the Thames Valley.
The problem is the station has become the victim of its own success. With atrain to London taking twenty-five minutes the town of Reading is a havenfor commuters.A half hourly service to Birmingham and the north and links to the west andGatwick have made this one of our most used stations.The rail companies have put on extra services to meet demand but the tracksand the trains are now full. And if the predictions are right the annualseventeen million passengers at Reading will double by 2030.The solution is an extra five platforms to ease the squeeze and allow moretrains to run. There will also be a new train depot and local roads willimprove with new larger bridges.Work on the project is now a third complete and will end in 2015.
As you look around the work is staggering. Some of more than 400 staff onsite are building a new platform for the line to Waterloo. This should openlater in the summer.The platforms will be able to take twelve carriage trains which will be athird longer than at the moment and should help ease overcrowding.Two new station entrances are taking shape along with a massive overheadwalkway that will link all the platforms. Key sections will be moved intoplace in July with the final part in September. The structure will be thirtymeters wide and open to passengers next Easter.Work is being phased so there is no disruption during the olympics betweenJuly and September. However there will be major disruption next Easter asthe work reaches a crucial stage.Passengers watch the work as they wait for trains in utter amazement andmany take pictures on mobile phones.Network Rail project director, Bill Henry, said: "We’re a third of the waythrough delivering the massive improvements which will unblock thebottleneck on the railway and provide a station fit for future – aspassenger numbers in Reading are set to double by 2030."The local Council and MP's campaigned hard to get the Government to approve the scheme.
At one time it was feared it may be cut back due to the currentfinancial situation. But the case was made and funding agreed for the townshard pressed passengers."We continue to deliver the project on time and on budget, and are nowreaching a crucial phase before the Olympics, as we have promised passengersno disruptive engineering works during the Games. At the station thissummer, a spectacular new passenger bridge will start to take shape."Reading East Conservative MP Rob Wilson said "Only when you get on site canyou appreciate the scale of this project. The work us crucial not only toimprove the passenger experience but to ensure Reading remains a thrivingbusiness centre."Impressions of the completed scheme can be downloaded from the following.[http://www.networkrail.co.uk/