Network Rail successfully completed the first stage of its six-year project to upgrade Reading’s railway, in time for commuters to begin travelling back to work after the Christmas break.
Between 25 December 2010 and 3 January 2011, more than 250 engineers worked around the clock to lay the groundwork for a bigger, more modern station and a more efficient track layout for the Reading area.
Bill Henry, Network Rail project director for Reading, said: “The work we’ve completed this Christmas is the launch pad for a huge programme of improvements for Reading’s railway. Over the coming years we’ll build a bigger, better station and make substantial changes to the track layout to improve journeys on the entire Western route, from London to Penzance and Swansea.
“Our people have put in 16,000 hours over the past ten days to deliver this work on time, and some two years of planning have gone into keeping disruption to the railway and road network to a minimum.
“Local people have given us great support over the past few days. Around 30 people spent the whole of New Year’s Eve watching us slide the new bridge into place, and hundreds more visited our work site over the new year weekend. It’s fantastic that the public are enthusiastic about our work and show understanding when it affects their journeys.”
Mark Hopwood, managing director of First Great Western said: “FGW was pleased to support Network Rail’s Reading works over Christmas and New Year with a major programme of long distance train diversions and localised bus replacement services. Wherever possible we kept passengers on trains over the festive season.
“This is a significant first step in a major project. I am pleased this phase has been completed on time and the railway is fully open for business again. I know that Network Rail has much more work to do and FGW will continue to work closely with them to minimise disruption to our customers. I would like to thank our customers for their understanding and patience.”
Between 25–30 December 2010 Network Rail engineers completed the resignalling of 100 miles of railway around Reading, transferring control to a state of the art signal centre in Didcot. In the early hours of New Year’s Day they lifted a new, 1,000 tonne bridge deck into place over Caversham Road ready to carry track serving new platforms at the station.
This year will see demolition work begin on the old signal box and other buildings north of the station to make way for new platforms. New entrances and a new passenger footbridge will follow, opening for use in 2013.