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A shared vision boosts the railway at Reading

Proposals to deliver the biggest ever investment at Reading have been unveiled for the first time today by Network Rail. Backed by the Department for Transport, the scheme aims to boost performance and expand the railway.

Five new platforms, an elevated railway, a new station entrance and a new train depot are among a host of improvements presented at a Network Rail exhibition.

Preliminary work is underway with construction due to be in full swing in 2010. Once it is completed in 2015, the scheme is set to enable more trains to run through Reading; reduce delays on the western route; ease overcrowding at the station and help foster economic growth at Reading.

Following a series of consultations with the rail industry, Reading Borough Council and local groups, these improvement works are proposed:

- Five new platforms, four serving passengers travelling on express and local services to ease overcrowding by boosting station capacity

- One new southern platform and platforms 4a/b will be lengthened to enable additional and longer trains travelling to and from Waterloo station

- An elevated railway west of Reading station to untangle the paths used by freight and passenger trains and to allow more trains to run to and from London

- Wider Cow Lane bridges, with two carriageways, cycle way and pavement, making it easier for cyclists and pedestrians to get through

- New station footbridge with step-free access to link all platforms and the new northern entrance

- Provision for a new entrance to the north of the station, which will improve accessibility to the station and provide a link for pedestrians from Reading town centre to the Thames

- Re-open a railway tunnel at the east of the station for Gatwick rail services and to allow potential for rail services to Heathrow Airport (Airtrack) in the future

- A new train depot that can accommodate more trains and potentially new Inter-city Express trains in the future

Seventy of the most experienced engineering firms operating in the UK have been invited to put forward their best ideas to deliver the £425m remodelling scheme. Network Rail will award 25 individual work packages with values ranging between around £1m and £80m.

Companies will be selected for their skills and willingness to be innovative across a diverse range of works including:

• Civil engineering, including the construction of an rail viaduct and the widening and replacement of several bridges
• Signalling and telecoms, including upgrading the signalling equipment at Reading
• Track, renewing and constructing new ones; and
• Station and depot works, including building new platforms, pedestrian footbridge and the northern entrance to the station

Rupert Walker, project sponsor for Network Rail, said: “This is one of the most prestigious, high-profile schemes in the country and it will provide national benefit to Britain’s railways. We owe it to the millions of rail users coming through the Reading area each year to secure the best talent available for this vital project.

“The selection process will be rigorous and competition will be tough so we can draw on the best people to deliver the job. Every successful bidder will have an excellent opportunity to showcase their expertise and ability to deliver.”

Dividing the contract into separate work packages, a favoured industry approach, means Network Rail will be closer to the ‘front-line’ in the delivery of the scheme. This also means opportunity for more firms to compete for and benefit from this scheme – boosting the industry and creating more engineering jobs, potentially for the Reading area.

Successful bidders will go through a three-stage process to qualify for the final selection, which will begin in early 2009. The first set of work packages will be awarded by summer 2009 for preliminary work to start by end of next year. The larger contracts for the main programme of work, which include the construction of the elevated railway and track renewals, will be awarded from the end of 2009.

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