PROPOSED improvements to the scheme to build a dedicated new bus, pedestrian and cycle route between East Reading and the town centre will be on display at a public exhibition next week (Sep 12).
Design options for the proposed East Reading Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) scheme will be consulted on in response to concerns raised by Wokingham Borough Council’s planning committee earlier this year. Reading’s Planning Committee had previously approved the East MRT scheme.
A public consultation will now focus on visual changes to the original scheme. An important part of that consultation will be a public exhibition on Wednesday September 12, which will seek views on additional options which will help further reduce the impact of the scheme on the riverside setting.
Residents, businesses and all stakeholders are being invited to attend the public exhibition at Wokingham Waterside Centre where the options will be on show. The drop-in exhibition is open between 1pm and 7pm.
This takes place in advance of the normal statutory planning consultation process, which will go live in winter 2018, when a new planning application will be submitted to both Reading Borough Council and Wokingham Borough Council. The application will then be considered by both Reading and Wokingham Planning Committees in early 2019.
The proposed East Reading MRT would provide a direct new public transport, walking and cycle link between Reading Town Centre and Thames Valley Business Park, the new Thames Valley Park and Ride and a network of other park and ride sites in Wokingham and local services from Woodley, Wokingham and Bracknell. It would be a new public transport link for buses, pedestrians and cyclists only, and could also be used for possible future light rail, driverless pods, or other schemes as technology evolves. Private vehicles and taxis would not be permitted to use the route. Instead it would help to provide a quick, easy and direct route with more reliable journey times for public transport, as a viable alternative to the private car.
The sustainable transport route would run parallel to the Great Western mainline, connecting to Napier Road and linking with the Napier Road underpass, which Reading Borough Council opened in 2015. The route would be extended near Tesco and on to the Kennetmouth, where a new single lane bridge would be constructed next to the existing railway bridge over the river.
Councillor Tony Page, Reading Borough Council’s Lead Member for Strategic Environment, Planning and Transport, said:
“In July the Council announced its intention to submit a new proposal for the East Reading MRT scheme which takes into account comments made at both Reading and Wokingham planning committees. The public exhibition on September 12th is the start of a lengthy consultation period which will include the usual statutory consultation as part of the planning process.
“Visitors to the exhibition will note the scheme options to help reduce the visual impact of the structure further. The original scheme was itself updated earlier this year to include a net increase in biodiversity, a net increase in flood storage capacity and the greater retention of trees, and further work has now taken place to help address some of the concerns aired.”
Outlining the overall benefits of the East Reading Mass Rapid Transit scheme, Councillor Page added:
“The East MRT is a joint public transport scheme which has the potential to offer major benefits to people who regularly commute between Wokingham and Reading.
“With many thousands of new homes planned in the Wokingham and Bracknell areas over the next few years, alongside developments in Reading Town Centre, we simply cannot ignore the huge impact it will have on a limited road network.
“Reading’s road network is already at capacity. The only solution is to offer people realistic, easy and sustainable travel options which will help to manage future demands on Reading’s roads, including managing levels of congestion and air quality, which we know are major issues in Reading.
“During peak hours this proposed bus-only link from Thames Valley Park along Napier Road will save buses up to 15 minutes by bypassing the often congested and slow-moving London Road/Cemetery Junction/ Forbury Road route. Once this new and faster route has become established, it will significantly increase the attractiveness of public transport services.”
The proposed East Reading MRT scheme is being promoted by Reading Borough Council, Wokingham Borough Council and Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), with capital funding allocated through the LEP’s Growth Deal. This is external funding that the Council has successfully bid for and which cannot be used to fund other Council services.
Notes to Editor:
The public consultation event takes place on Wednesday 12th September 2018 from 1pm to 7pm at Wokingham Waterside Centre, Thames Valley Park Drive, Earley, RG6 1PQ.