The Reading Blockade
Major rail replacement operations kicked into place yesterday as Reading Station was completely closed for the first phase of redevelopment work which will eventually include a flyover for trains heading to the South Coast, four extra platforms, new entrances both North and South of the Station, a new footbridge, widening of the Cow Lane bridge and a new road layout in Reading Town Centre. Reading Station is the second busiest station in the UK outside London (only Birmingham New Street is busier) with passengers expected to double by 2030.
The closed off ticket barriers at Reading Station on 27th.
The first round of major works takes place from 25th December 2010 until 3rd January 2011, with all lines closed from 27th to 30th December (no services run on 25th or 26th anyway), before reopening for New Years Eve. During this time a new signalling system is being installed across 100 miles of track, allowing signalling control for the entire Reading area to be transferred to a new control centre in Didcot.
Men at work on the signals on 27th.
The rail replacement operation required around 150 vehicles each day from 27th until 30th across all of the Stations affected, around 90 of which were on services stopping in Reading. To accommodate all of the vehicles, services to Maidenhead, Didcot and Swindon departed from stops SA-SF on Station Hill. The displaced bus services were moved to stops SQ and temporary stop SQ2 on the opposite side of the road. Meanwhile in a more surprising move, Reading's old bus station was tidied up and reopened for departures to Basingstoke, Theale and Wokingham. The entrance road was unblocked, panelling was repainted to remove graffiti, temporary flood lights and generators installed, and staff portacabins and temporary signage added. Dripping snow and ice left over from the previous weekends heavy snow meant that it was a bit damp and drab, but it provided the extra space required.
Before and after - the old Bus Station on 11th December prior to its makeover, and on 27th December with Reading Buses 1030 and First Berkshire 32900 on stand (both with seasonal MegaRears for the Oracle).
Truemans J33 TRU entering the old bus station on 27th operating non-stop route B1 from Basingstoke.
Stagecoach in Hampshire 18185 turning into the old bus station on 27th on arrival from Wokingham.
Stagecoach South ex Hong Kong Olympian 13646 leaving the bus station for Wokingham on 27th in South West Trains livery.
Special arrangements were also in place at the front of the Station to direct passengers to where they needed to go.
Reading Transport secured a contract from First Rail Support to run 33 vehicles 24 hours a day on Reading - All Stations - Basingstoke (designated B2), Didcot - All Stations - Reading - Maidenhead (designated D) and Reading - Twyford - Maidenhead (also designated D). Single deckers were required for most of this work due to low bridges, but double deckers were used on the Reading - Twyford - Maidenhead service. Generic liveried double deckers were in use on route 9 to release all of the route 9 branded single deckers, and the reduced Christmas requirement freed up a couple of buses from route 22 to complement the fleet of generic liveried single deckers on the work.
1019 loading for Maidenhead on 27th having arrived from Didcot.
1112 on the Reading - Twyford - Maidenhead service on 27th with 1021 behind. Note the extra signage attached to the bus stop.
Newbury Buses ran four of the eight buses on the B2 stopping service to Basingstoke on 27th, including 974 which had previously been out of service pending sale.
Other operators not so far mentioned in Reading included Barnes, Chapman's Travel, D&P Coaches, First London, Mortons, Newtons, Pewsey Vale Coaches, RH Transport, Sea View, Shore Line, TK Travel and Weavaway. Further vehicles from Horseman and Mortons were present at Theale and from First and Z&S at Maidenhead.
Many of the lines into Reading close again on 1st and 2nd to allow the replacement of the railway bridge over Caversham Road. A new 1000 tonne bridge has been constructed on the site of the former Royal Mail offices, and Caversham Road will be closed from 2000 on 30 December until 0600 on 3 January while the new bridge is jacked up and driven into place on the back of a 1,000-tonne, 72 axle transportation platform with more than 270 wheels on the morning of 1st January. There is just 25cm clearance between the new bridge and the corner of the Network Rail Offices on the bridge's route to Caversham Road, so as part of the work Network Rail are removing part of the facia from their building to provide an extra metre’s clearance! The new bridge replaces four old ones, two of which were removed in September and the remaining two are being removed over the New Year weekend. The new bridge will carry track to serve new platforms to the north of the station.
Caversham Road Bridge Replacement Preparations
Caversham Road was closed from 2000 yesterday to start the preparations for the bridge replacement operation. By this evening the two remaining sections of the 4 section bridge had been removed ready for the big operation planned for 0800 tomorrow morning. The mainline bridge next to it is not being replaced, allowing trains to return to normal for the day today and this evenings new year celebrations.
Things almost look normal until you take a closer look. That isn't where the bridge is normally...
The old central bridge section on one beast of a machine.
The site where the old bridges were and the new one will be. The remaining bridge section can just be seen in the distance, with the new bridge being constructed on the former Post Office site to the left.
Caversham Road Bridge Replacement
With everything having gone smoothly, the new bridge was moved into place from 2100 last night and was complete by this morning.
The new bridge in the former Post Office yard yesterday morning ready to be rolled into place over night. Thanks to Richard Mallett for this photo.
The scene at 1230 today with new bridge in place, wooden boards having been used to protect the road.