Reading's redeveloped railway station was officially opened by The Queen today

Thursday 17th July 2014
Used by nearly 20m passengers a year, Reading station is one of the busiest rail hubs in Britain. It has been transformed by Network Rail in the last five years as part of a £895m project to rebuild the railway around Reading which will remove one of the worst remaining bottlenecks on the network, improving reliability and increasing capacity so more trains can run in the future. 

The bigger, better station – completed a year ahead of schedule and within budget – now has two entrances, 15 platforms including five new platforms, new retail facilities and a new passenger bridge three times the size of the original footbridge. All platforms have new lifts, escalators and canopies making the station more accessible, lighter and brighter and better able to accommodate the growing number of passengers, with 30m people forecast to use the station by 2030. 

The Queen met key members of the engineering team behind the project and unveiled a plaque marking the official opening of the new and improved station. Her Majesty was also joined by more than 100 railway workers involved in the construction for a special group photograph to mark the occasion. 

Network Rail chairman, Richard Parry-Jones, said: “We are extremely honoured that Her Majesty has officially opened the new Reading station. Thousands of men and women have worked on this project over the last five years and this is a proud moment for them and for the entire rail industry. 

“The scale of the new station here at Reading reflects the huge and growing demand for rail travel in Britain and it has already started to deliver a better experience for passengers.”

The official opening of Reading station is a significant milestone in the Reading Station Area Redevelopment Programme, with the overall set of enhancement works – including a new viaduct to the west of the station which will cut delays and increase capacity so more trains can run in future – set to complete in spring 2015, also a year earlier than originally planned.

Mr Parry-Jones continued: “Brunel’s railway is an engineering marvel, but Reading has been a bottleneck on the line almost since the day it was built. In a year’s time that bottleneck will be gone, paving the way for an electrified railway with new trains providing more seats and better journeys for passengers and driving economic growth across the region.” 

First Great Western Managing Director, Mark Hopwood, said: “We are honoured to have the Queen here at Reading today. A huge effort from thousands of Network Rail and First Great Western staff has gone into developing the station and it is great to see their achievement recognised. 

“This is a fantastic day, not just because our customers have a brand new station that is fit for the 21st Century, but also because it marks the completion of the first major project in a series of billion pound investments that will be made in the Great Western network over the coming years. 

“It is also a day when we should thank our customers for their patience. You can’t build a station of this size and stature without it impacting on customers, so I am grateful that they have seen and understood what we have tried to achieve. Almost 60 million people have passed through this station since the start of the project and we’ve barely had a handful of complaints. 

“Now, we need to look ahead. In the coming years, the Great Western network will see some of the biggest investments since Brunel with projects like electrification and Crossrail bringing huge economic benefits to the region. We will work with Network Rail to make them happen.” 

Cllr Tony Page, Reading Borough Council’s deputy leader and lead member for strategic environment, planning and transport, said: “This project is the culmination of a great deal of hard work over the years by Reading Borough Council who, working in collaboration with local stakeholders, can rightly claim the credit for persuading the previous government to give the go-ahead to the Reading station upgrade project. 

“These works recognise the importance to the nation’s railways of delivering extra train capacity and benefits not only to train passengers but also to the growing rail freight industry. The works at Reading station are essential to the town both in terms of connecting Reading with the capital and for commuters coming to work in the borough from all around the Thames Valley. The new viaduct to the west of the station – so important to the whole project - delivers two brand new bridges over Cow Lane which, from next summer, will allow improved connections to and from west Reading and, for the first time ever, new bus services along Richfield Avenue. 

“The council has also added to the station redevelopment by promoting and building the new northern interchange. The improved southern interchange is due to open in the autumn and we are grateful to the present government for their continued support and an extra contribution towards these works.”

CrossCountry’s managing director, Andy Cooper, said: “This greatly improved Reading station means our customers can now experience a bright, modern station environment and faster and more reliable journeys. Enhanced connectivity to the South Coast, the Midlands and the North of England for the almost three million CrossCountry customers that use this station each year will allow Reading to continue to grow and prosper as a key part of Britain’s national rail network.” 

The Reading station area redevelopment programme is part of the government’s £7.2bn investment to upgrade and modernise the Great Western route, which includes electrification of the line from London to Bristol (including Newbury and Oxford) by 2016 and to Cardiff by 2017. 

Much of the electrification work will be carried out by a specially designed engineering train – a 23-vehicle factory on wheels – which will enable Network Rail to work without closing the line to trains. As part of her visit, The Queen named the engineering train ‘Brunel’, after Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the engineer who built the Great Western main line.