FUNDING for two major public transport schemes in Reading has been confirmed after business cases for both were agreed by the Berkshire Local Transport Body last week (November 16th).
Approval for Phases 3 and 4 of the South Reading Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) and the East Reading MRT, means that the business cases for both schemes have been independently approved and that both demonstrate high value for money, in line with Government guidance.
Last week’s stamp of approval means the Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership can release previously agreed funding for the schemes at the point at which they are being constructed.
Councillor Tony Page, Reading Borough Council’s Lead Member for Strategic Environment, Planning and Transport, said:
“Reading continues to grow and firmly remains the economic capital of the Thames Valley region. With this success comes increasing demands on limited road space. The only realistic way we can absorb that growth is by making sustainable travel choices quicker and more attractive to people.
“Both the South Reading MRT and the East Reading MRT do that be creating dedicated public transport routes along two key corridors for Reading. I am pleased that the value for money element has been independently verified for both these major infrastructure schemes which will bring major benefits to Reading for many years to come.”
Charles Eales, co-chair of the Berkshire Strategic Transport Forum said:
“Thames Valley Berkshire LEP is committed to providing a sustainable and connected transport network across Berkshire and has therefore invested £29.2m into the development of south and east Reading mass rapid transit from our Local Growth Deal.
“We are delighted to approve our contribution to these two transport schemes as these improvements will enable economic growth, strengthen local communities and businesses, provide better access to jobs and services and reduce congestion.”
Funding for both the South Reading MRT and the East Reading MRT is provided via the Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), with capital funding allocated through the LEP’s Growth Deal with central Government. That funding totals £10m for Phases 3 and 4 of the South Reading MRT and £19m for the East MRT. The money is external funding the Council has successfully bid for and which cannot be used to fund other day to day Council services.
South Reading MRT
The South Reading MRT is a dedicated series of new bus lanes being constructed by Reading Borough Council on the south and northbound carriageway of the A33. When complete it will speed up journey times for all road users along one of Reading’s key growth corridors and commuters routes between the Town Centre and Junction 11 of the M4 and Green Park.
No road capacity for other vehicles is being lost in order to create the new bus lane, with extra space created by using land alongside the existing highway and from the central reservation. In addition the scheme includes upgrades to traffic signals at key junctions on the route which will deliver further benefits for all road users.
The first section of the bus lane, southbound between the Imperial Way (Tesco) roundabout and M4 Junction 11, was finished in December last year. Phase 2, running between Kennet Island and Imperial Way, is set to be completed later this month, meaning buses will be able to start using the new bus lane.
Work on Phases 3 and 4 is set to begin early next year and will start with the town centre sections – in London Street and Bridge Street – and will then move back to the A33 from the summer. Phase 3 is scheduled to be completed by late 2018 and phase 4 will be delivered during 2019. This work is subject to spend approval being granted at a meeting of the Council’s Policy Committee in January. Further phases of the scheme are being planned to help manage the forecast future demand on this corridor, with delivery subject to the Council securing external funding.
East Reading MRT
The East Reading Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) is a proposed new route providing a direct new link between Reading Town Centre and Thames Valley Business Park, and the new Thames Valley Park and Ride site in Wokingham.
It would be open to buses, pedestrians and cyclists only. Private vehicles would not be permitted to use the route. Instead it will help to alleviate the existing traffic bottleneck along London Road and Cemetery Junction by providing a quick, easy and direct route with reliable journey times, as a viable alternative to the private car. It will also provide additional capacity for future demand.
A planning application for the East Reading MRT will be determined by both Reading Borough Council and Wokingham Borough Council Planning Committees in the new year. If agreed by both planning authorities, this would be followed by detailed design phase. The current schedule is for construction to begin in 2019.