Reading railway station
|Reading station frontage, showing the old from 1860 (left) and new station buildings from 1989 (right)|
|Local authority||Borough of Reading|
|Managed by||First Great Western|
|Number of platforms||15|
|Live arrivals/departures and station information
from National Rail Enquiries
|Annual rail passenger usage*|
|Original company||Great Western Railway|
|30 March 1840||Opened|
|National Rail – UK railway stations|
|A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z|
|* Annual estimated passenger usage based on sales of tickets in stated financial year(s) which end or originate at Reading from Office of Rail Regulation statistics. Methodology may vary year on year.|
|UK Railways portal|
Reading railway station (formerly Reading General) is a major railway station and transport hub in the English town of Reading. It is on the northern edge of the town centre, near the main retail and commercial areas, and also the River Thames. Next to the railway station is a bus interchange, served by most of Reading's urban and rural bus services.
With almost 15.3 million passenger entries and exits between April 2011 and March 2012, Reading is the eighth-busiest station in the UK outside London. It is the third busiest interchange station outside London, after Birmingham New Street and Manchester Piccadilly, with almost 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.
In 1860, a new station building, in Bath Stone and incorporating a tower and clock, was constructed for the Great Western Railway. In 1898 the single sided station 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 ex-South Eastern Railway station nearby. The "General" suffix was dropped from timetables in 1973, but some of the station nameboards still stated "Reading General" in 1974.
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, included 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 1860 station building were converted into The Three Guineas public house.
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 the current purpose-built Traction Maintenance Depot.
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.
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 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 from Reading station to Bristol Temple Meads, serving key towns including Bath Spa, Chippenham and Swindon. At Bristol, services divide; some proceed to Cardiff Central, Newport and Swansea via the South Wales Main Line, some terminate at Bristol, while others join the Bristol to Exeter Line towards the West Country. The other branch to the west of Reading station is the Reading to Taunton line, which serves communities in Berkshire and Wiltshire. High speed services on this line do not typically call at all stations along the route, and some express services from the South West operate non-stop from Taunton to Reading. 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. A single line proceeds to serve the stations of Taunton, Exeter St Davids, Plymouth and onward to stations in Cornwall. The terminus is Penzance. Both high-speed, intercity services and local services are operated by First Great Western, almost all of which stop are timetabled to stop at Reading.
Other main lines connect Reading with Birmingham New Street, Birmingham International, northern England and Scotland, and with Winchester, Southampton 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 Bournemouth and Southampton Central 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 First Great Western. An electric suburban line operated by South West Trains links Reading to London Waterloo. In lieu of a direct rail connection to Heathrow Airport, an express bus service, RailAir, links Reading with London Heathrow Airport.
|Railways around Reading|
|Preceding station||National Rail||Following station|
Bournemouth-Manchester or Southampton to Newcastle
|Terminus||First Great Western
North Downs Line
|London Paddington||First Great Western
|Twyford||First Great Western
Great Western Main Line
|First Great Western
Great Western Main Line
|Didcot Parkway or
|London Paddington||First Great Western
Reading to Taunton Line
|Twyford||First Great Western
Semi fast peak time services
Reading to Taunton Line
|First Great Western
Reading to Taunton Line
|Terminus||First Great Western
Reading – Basingstoke
|Earley||South West Trains
Waterloo to Reading
Rail & sea corridor to Ireland
At either Cardiff Central or Swansea connections with the Arriva Trains 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.
Until 2013, to serve the traffic described above, Reading station had four through-platforms and eight terminal platforms. The limited number of through-platforms, together with flat junctions immediately east and west of the station, and the fact that north-south trains need to reverse direction in the station, render the station an acknowledged bottleneck with passenger trains often needing to wait outside the station for a platform to become available.
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, including an overpass system to the West of the station; with freight and passenger trains able to transit from the Reading to Taunton Line and Reading to Basingstoke Line to the 'slow' lines without crossing the 'fast' lines via an underpass beneath the 'fast' lines, rather than the current flat junction. This is planned to help alleviate current delays, due to slow moving freight trains passing through the station. As well as the reconfiguration of the track, five additional platforms are planned; the terminus for London Waterloo will be altered, and the Cow Lane bridge under the tracks will be made two-way and include a cycle path. There will be improvements that will allow the capacity for at least 4 extra trains in each direction every hour.
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. CrossCountry services from Bournemouth to Birmingham
- Platform 4 – Fast services from Paddington to the West
- Platform 4a, 4b — East facing bay platforms. Used for services on the North Downs line and to London Waterloo
- Platform 5 – Fast services to Paddington
- Platform 6 – East facing bay platform. Used for terminating local services to and from London Paddington
- Platform 7 – West facing bay platform. Used for terminating CrossCountry services to and from Newcastle
- Platform 8 – Local services from Paddington to Oxford. Also used for CrossCountry services from Birmingham to Bournemouth. Fast services to Paddington, when platform 5 is occupied.
- Platform 9 – Local services from Oxford to Paddington and fast services to Paddington and Ealing Broadway.
- Platform 10 – East facing bay platform. Local stopping services to Paddington calling at most stations.Also local stopping services to Henley on Thames
On 31 December 2011, the new platform 4 was opened and the other platforms 1 – 11 & 16 were re-numbered accordingly. while the new platform 5 (old 4a) opened on 23 April 2012. The land north of the station is cleared awaiting construction of the new platforms 12–15. The subway is currently closed to passengers. Buildings on platform 7 and 10 (old 4 and 9) have been demolished to allow construction of the new passenger bridge. On 12 July 2012, the newly extended platform 6 (old 4b) re-opened. Following a blockade over the Easter weekend in 2013, new platforms 12 to 15 opened, platform 11 (old 10) became a through platform and the temporary platform 16 (old 6) closed.
The station now has nine through platforms numbered 7 to 15, split into 'a' and 'b' sections, with 'a' being the east end and 'b' the west end. 7 to 11 are on the fast lines, whereas 12 to 15 are on the slow lines. The disused underpass east of the station will link the electrified Wokingham line to the 'slow' lines at the north of the station complex, allowing for Heathrow Airtrack services. Crossrail could also be accommodated at the new station with little work beyond electrification, as new sidings have been planned to the west of the station.
The local council has also planned developments of the surrounding area in association with the developments at the station.
Current platform layout
On 29 March 2013 the new transfer deck was opened, and on 2 April 2013 the new northern through platforms became available. The subway has reopened as a public right of way from the north to the south of the station, with no platform access. By 7 April 2013 the old footbridge had been completely removed.
- Platform 1, 2, 3 – West facing bay platforms. Platforms 1 and 2 for local services to Basingstoke, Newbury and Bedwyn, and platform 3 for Cross Country reversing trains.
- Platform 4, 5, 6 — (new platform adjacent to Apex Plaza & former platforms 4a & 4b) East facing bay platforms. Used for services on the North Downs line and to London Waterloo. Was also proposed for the now cancelled Airtrack Scheme.
- Platform 7 – (formerly platform 4) Down trains for the Newbury route and for reversing Cross Country services.
- Platform 8, 9 – (formerly platforms 5 & 8) Two Down Main platforms for long-distance services
- Platform 10, 11 – (formerly platforms 9 & 10 ) Two Up Main platforms for long-distance services
- Platform 12, 13, 14 & 15 – (New platforms on site of former goods sidings) Up and Down Relief line platforms for stopping services.
- Former Platform 7 was taken out of use in December 2010 and the track infilled.
- Former Platform 6 was temporarily renumbered as Platform 16 until closed on 29 March 2013.
As of May 2011, the cost of the project had risen to £850m, but it will be completed earlier than previously scheduled in 2015. These plans provide for possible future Crossrail and Airtrack services at Reading station, building a railway that will be fit for at least the next thirty years. Network Rail are also examining options to improve the station concourse, provide new facilities such as improved ticketing and enhance cycle facilities.
Also the improvements allow 6 new freight trains each day — this could take around 200 lorries a day off the roads. Rail freight has only a quarter of the carbon footprint of moving freight by road, meaning this project will contribute to reductions in carbon and congestion.
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.
In May 2011 First Great Western exercised an option to terminate the franchise in March 2013, avoiding £827 million in premium payments to the Department for Transport. In April 2012 the franchise was put out to tender to the four shortlisted bidders, Arriva, FirstGroup, National Express and Stagecoach, but the process was paused and later cancelled after the collapse of the InterCity West Coast franchise competition, and the existing franchise extended. In October 2013 a new 23-month franchise running to September 2015 was awarded directly to First Great Western.
The Great Western Main Line from London to Bristol is due to be electrified by 2016, which will see most services transferred to electric traction using new Intercity Express Trains. It was announced in November 2013 that Network Rail would take over management of the station from First Great Western as of April 2014.
- Steer Davies Gleave (May 2013). "Estimates of station usage 2011–12" (XLSX). Office of Rail Regulation. Retrieved 19 May 2013.
- "Estimates of Station Usage 2011/12". Office of Rail Regulation. p. 19. Retrieved 19 May 2013.
- "Building the Great Western Railway". Reading History Trail. Retrieved 5 May 2011.
- "Victorian Urban Development". Reading History Trail. Retrieved 8 June 2011.
- Butt 1995, p. 195.
- Slater 1974a, Western's last "General", p.361.
- Slater 1974b, Western "Generals", p.520.
- Slater 1974a, New Southern platform at Reading, pp.362–363.
- Matthews 2006, p. 30.
- Griffiths, Roger; Smith, Paul (1999). The directory of British engine Sheds and Principal Locomotive Servicing Points 1. Oxford: Oxford Publishing Co. p. 40. ISBN 0-86093-542-6.>
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- Nock & Cooper 1987, pp. 128,130.
- "Rosslare to Fishguard". Stena Line. No date. Retrieved 2 July 2012.
- Forster, Mark (15–28 August 2007). "Rebuild will unblock Berkshire Bottleneck". Rail 572: 46–7.
- Station's £400m revamp unveiled, BBC News Berkshire. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/berkshire/7607861.stm
- Network Rail's plans. http://www.networkrail.co.uk/aspx/6339.aspx
- "New platform 4 opens at Reading 31/12/11".
- "New platform 5 opens. April 2012".
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- "£425M transformation planned at Reading". railnews.co.uk.
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- "Wandsworth Council – New Airtrack plan to connect Heathrow". London Borough of Wandsworth. 14 October 2010. Retrieved 3 April 2012.
- FirstGroup to quit Great Western deal early The Guardian 12 May 2011
- FirstGroup gives up First Great Western rail franchise early, saves £800m in payments to the government The Telegraph 12 May 2011
- Haigh, Philip (18 April 2012). "First leads a field of seven bidding for rail franchises". RAIL magazine (Peterborough: Bauer Media) (694): 8–9.
- "Great Western franchise to be extended". Railnews. 19 July 2012. Retrieved 19 July 2012.
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- "First Great Western awarded new franchise". Railway Gazette International. 3 October 2013.
- "First celebrates last-minute Great Western deal". Railnews. 3 October 2013. Retrieved 4 October 2013.
- "First Great Western retains Wales and west rail franchise". BBC News (BBC). 3 October 2013. Retrieved 4 October 2013.
- "Modernising the Great Western". Network Rail. Retrieved 9 June 2012.
- "Reading railway station to be managed by Network Rail". BBC News (BBC). 18 November 2013. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
- Butt, R.V.J. (1995). The Directory of Railway Stations. Yeovil: Patrick Stephens Ltd. ISBN 1-85260-508-1. R508.
- Cooke, B.W.C., ed. (October 1965). "Notes and News". Railway Magazine (London: Tothill Press Ltd.) 111 (774).
- Hylton, Stuart (2004). Reading — Events, people and places over the last 100 years. Stroud: Sutton Publishing. ISBN 0-7509-3906-0.
- Matthews, Rupert (2006). Lost Railways of Berkshire. Newbury: Countryside Books. ISBN 1-85306-990-6.
- Nock, O.S.; Cooper, B.K. (1987) . Historic Railway Disasters (4th ed.). Shepperton: Ian Allan. ISBN 0-7110-1752-2.
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- Waters, Laurence (1990). Rail Centres: Reading. London: Ian Allan Ltd. ISBN 0-7110-1937-1.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Reading railway station.|
- Train times and station information for Reading railway station from National Rail
- Reading station area redevelopment