Rail Industry Focus

01.09.13

More milestones passed at Reading

Civils and construction work on the Reading railway and station upgrade have been continuing apace over summer, since the new concourse opened to passengers at Easter. RTM talked to Network Rail’s Eimear Fitzpatrick. 

The August bank holiday weekend is always a busy time for rail engineering and civils works, and so it is proving at Reading, with platform, resurfacing and permanent way upgrades all due to take place as RTM was going to press. New canopies were also due to be installed.

The station works are on track to be complete by June 2014, while the 2km viaduct, and with it the whole project, will be ready in 2015. 

Balfour Beatty is the principal contractor on the viaduct works, and hit a key milestone in July (see panel). The new viaduct, with the grade separated freight chord running below it, “is really the key to unclogging the bottleneck and reducing congestion at Reading”, Network Rail’s Eimear Fitzpatrick told RTM. 

The first pier was recently completed, forming the foundations of the new viaduct (see picture). The viaduct is on the site of the old depot, while the new depot, built by VolkerFitzpatrick, was completed and handed over to First Great Western this summer. The migration of rolling stock began in June and the facility was officially opened by transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin in July. That was ahead of the original schedule, which had November as the opening date. The depot employs 160 staff, including 19 new employees. The depot, 210m long and 37m wide, will provide capacity for 147 diesel and electric trains, VolkerFitzpatrick said. 

OLE is already installed in the depot, ready for Great Western Main Line electrification. Some of the electrification works around Reading have been included in the project scope as an efficiency measure, as have some track renewals and signalling works. Fitzpatrick told us: “We’ve got the contractors and possessions, so it made sense to include these pieces of work, even through installing OLE in and of itself isn’t a crucial part of the main Reading project. Those new elements took the project from £850m to £895m. 

“If you travel out of Reading, east, west or south down towards Reading West station, you can see a lot of the stanchions starting to appear,” she said. Lundy Projects is the contractor for those works. 

Passengers will also soon see signs of the new viaduct, if they look to the south while travelling west out of Reading. Fitzpatrick said: “You can already start to see it; it will make a massive difference to the skyline of Reading.” 

Major works have been going on at Reading since 2009, but the first time passengers really noticed the scale of the work was Easter this year when the old station building closed and the new concourse opened. 

There have only been “teething problems” since the opening, Fitzpatrick said, with First Great Western having made some alterations in response to passenger feedback. This included changes to the way the new passenger information screens worked. “It’s such a massive change from the way the station was before,” she added. 

But Easter did not see any major service or timetable changes, which Network Rail admits has created a communications challenge – having to make passengers understand that the new concourse is just the first part of the project, and that the real performance benefits come once the viaduct and all the new platforms are fully in operation.  

Another hurdle cleared 

Balfour Beatty’s Reading Viaduct team has celebrated the passing of its first project milestone – removing a major section of disused steel bridge at Cow Lane, west of the station, to make way for the new viaduct. 

The new £40m concrete structure will take the fast main lines over the freight and relief lines, helping to cut delays and ease train movements.

Balfour Beatty said the section of bridge was removed in a through-the-night operation, and that it will now go off for recycling. 

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