Posted 10th September 2008 | 3 Comments

£425M transformation planned at Reading

Rupert Walker, project director, Network Rail

IN one of the biggest capacity upgrades planned outside of London, Network Rail has unveiled details of a £425 million transformation of track and train capacity at Reading.
The huge project, which should get fully under way in 2010, will increase the number of platforms from 10 to 15—one more than originally proposed—and will see the main lines west of Reading station carried on a new elevated section, creating flyovers to avoid delays caused by other passenger and freight trains using the Reading West triangle of lines.
First Great Western and CrossCountry express passenger services will all benefit from the new layout, while the movement of heavy and lengthy freight trains—including those carrying the growing container traffic from Southampton to the Midlands and North, and lengthy aggregate trains from the Mendips to the London area—will no longer conflict with passenger train operations on the Great Western Main Line.
Among the freight services are Britain’s longest trains, operated by Aggregates Industries, which pass through Reading every day carrying crushed stone from the Mendips to London.  
An underpass east of Reading station, which has been disused for several decades, is also to be restored for use by First Great Western trains to and from Gatwick Airport—and by Heathrow services, if the Airtrack project goes ahead. Four new platforms on the north side of Reading station will include capacity for handling these airport services.
Land is also being reserved on the north side at the London end of the station for three stabling sidings for cleaning and light maintenance of Crossrail trains—if approval is given to extend that project beyond Maidenhead.    
Earlier this year, Transport Minister Tom Harris safeguarded land and facilities between Maidenhead and Reading so that Crossrail electrification could be extended.
In the remaining space east of Reading station, Network Rail is also seeking to accommodate a line for a light rapid transit system, proposed by Wokingham County Borough Council, which would terminate north of the station, near Vastern Road.
On the south side of Reading station, South West Trains will also benefit.
Platforms 4a and 4b, which will be renumbered 6 and 5 respectively, are to be lengthened for 12-car trains and a new platform, 4, will also be constructed adjacent to the Apex Plaza building. This, and the platform extensions, will require the construction of a new railway bridge over the Reading Inner Distribution Road.
Rupert Walker, project director, Network Rail, said: “We plan to deliver the project in phases to provide incremental benefits to the public over the next eight years. As we have learnt from major projects that we have managed across the country, we are confident of delivering a better railway that will also cater for tomorrow’s demands.”

In phase one, the new platforms and station buildings—and a new footbridge across the station—are due to be completed by 2012.
The present platform 4 will be renumbered 7, while the present platforms 5 and 8 will become numbered 8 and 9.  The present platform 10 will retain its identity but it will be expanded into an island, and the new face will be numbered 11.
Beyond this, four new platforms—12-15—will be created.  
To enable the northward expansion of the station, Network Rail is acquiring land from Royal Mail—which is to close its Caversham Road sorting centre, built on the site of the former BR signalling works.
The Royal Mail site will be used during the two construction phases as the base for main contractors’ site offices and materials.  
A new footbridge across all platforms will be located west of the original station building, which is preserved as a Grade II listed structure. It now houses the Three Guineas public house—named after the prize money paid in the early 20th Century in a competition to find a title for a new express train service to Cornwall. The winning name, ‘Riviera Express,’ was later famously expanded to ‘Cornish Riviera Express.’
Phase 2 will see construction of the flyover—which should be completed in 2014—to carry the GWML above the tracks, heading either west for Didcot or east towards London, from Reading West.  
Within the Reading West triangle, the existing FGW Traincare and the former Jarvis depots will be demolished to facilitate a new chord line in the London direction and the new elevated section of the GWML. In this way, trains will be able to continue running on the existing main line tracks while construction takes place. Trains will then be diverted onto the elevated section when it is completed.
Phase 2 will continue to March 2016, including the Waterloo lines’ platform alterations and the new bridge over the Inner Distribution Road.
Other developments in phase 2 will see two new maintenance depots built north of the GWML — one, between Cow Lane and Caversham Road, for the Intercity Express Project and another, between Cow Lane and Tilehurst, for FGW Traincare.
• Why expansion at Reading is needed

NETWORK Rail’s 2008/9 route plan sets out the strategic significance of Reading in the rail network—it is a critical ‘crossroads’ on the east-west and north-south axes for both passenger and freight flows.
The lack of available platforms and through-capacity at present—allied with constraints at Paddington, which will be overcome when Crossrail services go underground and free up platform capacity at the London terminal—prevent train service growth to meet current and future passenger demand.
The Reading area is further restricted at Reading West Junction where long north-south freight services have to cross the GWML at grade, says Network Rail.
Growth in freight services between the Southampton ports—crossing the GWML route to the Midlands, the north of England and Scotland—is expected to continue with a predicted 74 per cent increase in volume from the Port of Southampton—which will require an additional six trains per day in each direction.

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • Jules, lowestoft, uk

    £425 million - how much is mark-up for Network Rail?

    It is meant to be non-profit making but the system works as follows:

    Commerciallycosted with mark-up/profit.

    Network rail makes a profit at the end of the year.

    Only then does the "not-for-profit" ethos kick in - the "country" gets that profit or it is ploughed back into the railways.

    This sytem still has the danger that invidual projects will be wildly over-priced. Small projects especially must be "non-cost effective" by this system and price accordingly.

    Does anyone know how much this large project should really cost? Is anyone checking the figures - Ms.Dunwoody asked this all along.

  • robbie craig, Romney Marsh, UK

    agree with the above - for busy london lines, the future is duplex and they should design it in now to future proof the work.

  • Bill Dickson, Millom, UK

    I hope that in such a big scheme, they manage to allow for the possibility that, in the station's lifetime, the gauge may be widened as well as heightened to allow for continental gauge trains in the future. Or am I asking too much strategy from the planners. It'll probably be penny pinched as before.