Aerial view of Reading station in August 2014
|Local authority||Borough of Reading|
|Managed by||Network Rail|
|Number of platforms||15|
|National Rail annual entry and exit|
|Original company||Great Western Railway|
|Pre-grouping||Great Western Railway|
|Post-grouping||Great Western Railway|
|30 March 1840||Opened|
|London transport portal|
Reading railway station is a major transport hub in Reading, Berkshire, England. It is on the northern edge of the town centre, near the main retail and commercial areas and the River Thames, 36 miles (58 km) from London Paddington.
Reading is the ninth-busiest station in the UK outside London, and the second busiest interchange station outside London, with over 3.8 million passengers changing trains at the station annually.
The first Reading station was opened on 30 March 1840 as the temporary western terminus of the original line of the Great Western Railway (GWR). The time taken to travel from London to Reading was reduced to one hour and five minutes, less than a quarter of the time taken by the fastest stagecoach. The line was extended to its intended terminus at Bristol in 1841. As built, Reading station was a typical Brunel-designed single-sided intermediate station, with separate up and down platforms situated to the south of the through tracks and arranged so that all up trains calling at Reading had to cross the route of all down through trains.
In 1844, the Great Western Hotel was opened across the Forbury Road for people visiting the town. It is thought to be the oldest surviving railway hotel in the world. New routes soon joined the London to Bristol line, with the line from Reading to Newbury and Hungerford opening in 1847, and the line to Basingstoke in 1848.
Between 1865 and 1867, a station building, built of buff bricks from Coalbrookdale with Bath Stone dressings, and incorporating a tower and clock, was constructed for the Great Western Railway. Sources differ as to whether this was a new building, or remodelling of an earlier Brunel building. In 1898 the single sided station layout was replaced by a conventional design with 'up', 'down' and 'relief' platforms linked by a pedestrian subway.
The station was originally named Reading and became Reading General on 26 September 1949 to distinguish it from the neighbouring ex-South Eastern Railway station. The "General" suffix was dropped from British Rail timetables in 1973, but some of the station nameboards still stated "Reading General" in 1974. The juxtaposition of the two stations meant that the town's buses showed the destination 'Stations'.
1965 combined station
From 6 September 1965, services from the former Reading Southern station were diverted into a newly constructed terminal platform (4A) in the General station. This was long enough for a single eight coach train, which was later found to be inadequate, and so a second terminal platform (4B) serving the same line was opened in 1975 for the commencement of the service from Reading to Gatwick Airport.
In 1989 a brand new station concourse was opened by InterCity, including a shopping arcade named after Brunel, opened on the western end of the old Reading Southern station site, linked to the platforms of the main station by a new footbridge. At the same time a new multi-level station car park was built on the site of the former goods yard and signal works to the north of the station, and linked to the same footbridge. The station facilities in the 1860s station building were converted into The Three Guineas public house. The Queen reopened the station on 4 April 1989.
By 2007, the station had become an acknowledged bottleneck on the railway network, with passenger trains often needing to wait outside the station for a platform to become available. This was caused by limited number of through-platforms, the flat junctions immediately east and west of the station and the need for north-south trains to reverse direction in the station. The Great Western Main Line at Reading has two pairs of tracks – the Main ('fast') lines on the southern side and the Relief ('slow') lines on the northern side. Trains transferring between the Relief lines and the lines that run through Reading West (to Taunton and to Basingstoke) had to cross the Main lines. Those trains, especially slow-moving freight trains, blocked the paths of express trains.
In July 2007, in its white paper Delivering a Sustainable Railway, the government announced plans to improve traffic flow at Reading, specifically mentioned along with Birmingham New Street station as "key congestion pinch-points" which would share investment worth £600 million. On 10 September 2008 Network Rail unveiled a £400 million regeneration and reconfiguration of the station and surrounding track to reduce delays. The following changes were made:
- Five new platforms: Four new through platforms on the northern side and an extra bay platform for the Wokingham lines.
- A new footbridge on the western side of the station, replacing the 1989 footbridge. This also included a new entrance on the southern side, for ticket holders only.
- A new street-level entrance and ticket office on the northern side of the station.
- The original subway was converted into a pedestrian underpass between the two sides of the station, with no access to the platforms.
- Making the Cow Lane bridge under the tracks two-way with a cycle path.
- A flyover to the west of the station for trains to allow fast trains to cross over the lines to Reading West, replacing the flat junction.
- A section of track beneath the flyover to provide a connection between Reading West and the relief lines.
The improvements have allowed capacity for at least 4 extra trains in each direction every hour and 6 extra freight trains a day (equivalent to 200 lorries). The local council has also planned developments of the surrounding area in association with the developments at the station.
Motive power depot
The GWR built a small engine shed in the junction of the lines to Didcot and those to Basingstoke in 1841. This was enlarged and rebuilt in 1876 and again in 1930. It was closed by British Railways in 1965 and replaced by a purpose-built Traction Maintenance Depot. This was subsequently relocated by Network Rail, during the redevelopment works in the early 2010s, to the northern side of the tracks to the west of the station.
Accidents and incidents
Extreme weather was the cause of an early casualty in the station's history. On 24 March 1840, whilst the station was nearing completion, 24-year-old Henry West was working on the station roof when a freak wind (described at the time as a tornado) lifted that section of the roof, carrying it and West around 200 feet (61 m) away; West was killed. On the wall of the main station building there is a brass plaque, commemorating the event.
On 12 September 1855, a light engine was dispatched on the wrong line. It was in a head-in collision with a passenger train. Four people were killed and many were injured.
An accident occurred at Reading on 17 June 1914, and was witnessed by the railway historian O. S. Nock, then a schoolboy. The driver of a train to Ascot moved off even though the signal was at 'danger', and into the path of an oncoming train bound for London Paddington; the only fatality was the driver of the Paddington train.
T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) lost the 250,000-word first draft of his Seven Pillars of Wisdom at the station when he left his briefcase while changing trains in 1919. Working from memory, as he had destroyed his notes after completion of the first draft, he then completed a 400,000-word second draft in three months.
German aircraft tried to bomb the lines into the station during the beginning of World War II.
On 1 August 1990, Class 119 diesel multiple unit L576 collided with a passenger train comprising 4VEP electric multiple units 3508 & 3504, and 4CIG unit 1304 due to overrunning signals. Forty people were injured.
On 23 October 1993, an IRA bomb exploded at a signal post near the station, some hours after 5 lb (2 kg) of Semtex was found in the toilets of the station. The resulting closure of the railway line and evacuation of the station caused travel chaos for several hours, but no-one was injured.
The station plays a key role in serving the Great Western Main Line, the line which runs west from London Paddington station to Reading. To the west of Reading station, the line splits into two branches, allowing it to serve a variety of communities in the West and South West of England and onward into South Wales. The main branch proceeds to Bristol Temple Meads, via Bath Spa, Chippenham and Swindon. The South Wales Main Line diverges from the main branch at Swindon with trains running via Bristol Parkway, Newport, Cardiff Central, Bridgend, Port Talbot Parkway, and Neath to and from Swansea. Some services on the Great Western Main Line terminate at Bristol, while others continue on the Bristol to Exeter line towards the West Country. The other branch to the west of Reading station is the Reading to Taunton line (the "Berks and Hants" line), which serves communities in Berkshire and Wiltshire. High speed services on this line do not normally call at all stations along the route (except sometimes Newbury), and some express services from the South West operate non-stop between Paddington and Taunton. The Reading to Taunton branch joins services travelling south from Bristol on the Bristol to Exeter line at Cogload Junction, to the north of Taunton. The line proceeds to serve the stations of Taunton, Exeter St Davids, Plymouth and onward to stations in Cornwall such as Par where the branch to Newquay diverges where some trains terminate whilst most terminate at the terminus of Penzance. Both high-speed intercity services and local services are operated by Great Western Railway. Nearly all services are timetabled to stop at Reading.
Other main lines connect Reading with Birmingham New Street, Birmingham International, northern England and Scotland, and with Basingstoke, Winchester, Southampton Central and Bournemouth to the south. Through services from north to south on these lines are operated by CrossCountry, and all services stop in Reading, which requires the trains to reverse. The main routes offered by CrossCountry are to Newcastle and Manchester Piccadilly to the north and Southampton Central and Bournemouth in the south. There are extensions to Edinburgh Waverley and Guildford once daily in each direction.
The secondary North Downs Line connects Reading with Guildford, Reigate and Gatwick Airport. Services on this line, together with local stopping services to Basingstoke, Newbury, Bedwyn, Oxford and London Paddington, are also operated by Great Western Railway. An electric suburban line operated by South Western Railway links Reading to Wokingham, Bracknell, Ascot, Staines, Richmond, Clapham Junction and London Waterloo. Pending the construction of the direct rail route to Heathrow Airport, an express bus service, RailAir, links Reading with London Heathrow Airport. Alternatively one may proceed by train to Hayes & Harlington, changing there to a TfL Rail train to London Heathrow Airport.
Rail and sea corridor to Ireland
At either Cardiff Central or Swansea connections with the Transport for Wales boat train to/from Fishguard Harbour railway station are available. This in turn connects with the Stena Line ferry to Rosslare Europort in Ireland. An integrated timetable and through ticketing is offered between Reading and Rosslare on this international rail-sea route with a daily morning and evening service in both directions. This route has been in existence since 1906, enabling connections to Dublin Connolly.
The station has 15 platforms. The nine through platforms are numbered 7 to 15 and split into 'a' and 'b' sections, with 'a' being the east end and 'b' the west end. Platforms 7 to 11 are on the Main (fast) lines, whereas 12 to 15 are on the Relief (slow) lines. Relief line platforms 13-15 have access to the underpass to the Wokingham lines.
- Platforms 1 and 2 – West-facing bay platforms for local services to Basingstoke, Newbury and Bedwyn.
- Platform 3 - West-facing platform for CrossCountry services, which reverse or terminate.
- Platforms 4, 5 and 6 – East-facing bay platforms for South Western Railway services to London Waterloo, and GWR North Downs line services to Guildford, Redhill and Gatwick Airport. These were also to have been used by the now cancelled Airtrack Scheme. Third Rail electrified.
- Platform 7 – Westbound trains on the Berks and Hants route and reversing Cross Country services.
- Platforms 8 and 9 – Westbound Main line services
- Platforms 10 and 11 – Eastbound Main line services
- Platforms 12 and 13 – Westbound Relief line services and TfL Rail
- Platforms 14 and 15 – Eastbound Relief line services and TfL Rail.
Relief line services from London which terminate at Reading use platforms 13 or 14.
Until 2013, to serve the traffic described above, Reading station had four through-platforms and eight terminal platforms.
The station layout immediately prior to 27 December 2011 was as follows:
- Platform 1, 2, 3 – West facing bay platforms. Used for local services to Basingstoke, Newbury and Bedwyn.
- Platform 4 – Fast services from Paddington to the West. Renumbered Platform 7.
- Platform 4a, 4b — East facing bay platforms. Used for services on the North Downs line and to London Waterloo. Renumbered Platforms 6 and 5 respectively.
- Platform 5 – Fast services to Paddington. Renumbered Platform 8.
- Platform 6 – East facing bay platform. Used for terminating local services to and from London Paddington. Renumbered Platform 16 and later removed.
- Platform 7 – West facing bay platform. Used for terminating CrossCountry services to and from Newcastle. Removed first in the redevelopment.
- Platform 8 – Local services from Paddington to Oxford. Also used for CrossCountry services. Fast services to Paddington, when platform 5 was occupied. Renumbered Platform 9.
- Platform 9 – Local services from Oxford to Paddington and fast services to Paddington and Ealing Broadway. Renumbered platform 10.
- Platform 10 – East facing bay platform. Local stopping services to Paddington calling at most stations. Also local stopping services to Henley on Thames. Renumbered platform 11 and then converted to a through platform.
On 27 December 2011, the new platform 4 was opened, with all higher numbered platforms re-numbered. Main Line platforms 4 & 5 became 7 & 8 while Relief line platforms 8 & 9 became 9 & 10, with the North bay becoming 11. Bay platform 6, which would be removed later in the redevelopment, was renumbered 16. Platform 5 (old 4b) opened on 23 April 2012. with platform 6 (old 4a) following on 12 July. The Easter 2013 blockade resulted in the opening of new platforms 12 to 15 and the closure of the old East bay no 16. Work then commenced to rebuild platform 11 into a through platform, following which the adjacent platform 10 was rebuilt to match.
In March 2013 the subway reopened as a public right of way from the north to the south of the station, with no platform access. This enabled removal of the old footbridge to commence, starting with the two sections nearest the car park which were lifted out in the first two weeks of that month. On 29 March 2013 the new transfer deck was opened, ready for the opening of the new platforms on 2 April. By 7 April 2013 the old footbridge had been completely removed.
Recycling of infrastructure
During the station's major reconstruction, and the associated moving of locomotive stabling and the servicing depot from south of the Great Western Main Line to its north, a number of major components either became redundant or were no longer needed.[clarification needed] Network Rail offered these out to museums and the railway preservation movement, for a zero price, but subject to the cost of delivery being recompensed. In April 2011, the pair of former 17-metre (56 ft) road bridges to the west of the station were delivered to Loughborough Central on the Great Central Railway for future use on their bridging project. In January 2014 one of the 22,500-imperial-gallon (102,000 l; 27,000 US gal) water tanks was moved to Bishops Lydeard on the West Somerset Railway.
Reading station was intended to be the western terminus for the proposed Heathrow Airtrack rail service. This project, promoted by BAA, envisaged the construction of a spur from the Waterloo to Reading Line to Heathrow Airport, creating direct rail links from the airport to Reading, London Waterloo, Woking and Guildford. Airtrack was cancelled by BAA in April 2011 but, in October 2011, Wandsworth Council announced a revised plan called Airtrack-Lite.
More recently[when?], the Government has committed to the construction of a rail route from Heathrow Terminal 5 to the GWR main line between Iver and Langley, with a west-facing junction there, thus providing for a direct route from Heathrow to the West. Great Western Railway will run this route when completed in 2027, connecting up with the Elizabeth Line branch and replacing the Heathrow Express. See Western Rail Link to Heathrow.
The station is on the northern side of central Reading, off the Inner Distribution Road. The nearest post-code is RG1 1LT. In the chainage notation traditionally used on the railway, its location on the Great Western main line is 35 miles 78 chains (35.98 mi; 57.90 km) from Paddington.
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