THE first stretch of the Council’s A33 bus lane is complete and opened to buses for the first time on Tuesday 20th December.
Gas-powered Greenwave buses – operated by Reading Buses – are now using the first completed section of the new bus lane which the Council is building southbound along the A33, running to Junction 11 and the Council’s new Mereoak Park and Ride site.
The A33 is one of Reading’s key commuter routes, running from the town centre south to Green Park Business Park, the M4 motorway junction and then further south.
No road capacity for other vehicles is being lost in order to create the new bus lane which will speed up journey times for bus passengers who use the route. It will also speed up journey times for drivers and all other road users by freeing up road space which would otherwise have been used by buses.
The completion of the new stretch of outbound bus lane – from the Imperial Way (Tesco) roundabout through to the start of the existing bus lanes at Junction 11 – marks the end of the first phase 1a of the project.
Phases 1B and 2 will see the outbound bus lane extended to the A33 junction with Lindisfarne Way, where it joins Kennet Island. Work is expected to begin in Spring 2017.
Cllr Tony Page, Reading Borough Council’s Lead Member for Strategic Environment, Planning and Transport, said:
“The A33 is a key commuter route for both Reading and the wider region. Building a new bus lane which links with the motorway junction and the Council’s new Park and Ride site will speed up journey times for bus passengers. Drivers and other road users will also benefit as new road space has been created by using existing land next to the A33 and the central reservation, which takes buses out of existing lanes for general traffic.
“I’d thank all road users for their patience during the off peak lane closures which were necessary to complete this first phase of works.
“The Council’s long-term ambition is for dedicated south and northbound bus lanes to run along the full length of the A33, but work can only be carried out in phases, as and when future funding can be secured.”
The estimated £5 million cost for Phases 1 and 2 of the project – known as the South Reading Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) scheme – is being funded externally, through Reading Borough Council’s successful funding bid to the Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership’s (LEP) Local Growth Deal, and through private sector contributions. This money is ring-fenced, which means it cannot be used to pay for any other Council services.
Phases 1 and 2 of the Council’s scheme, from M4 Junction 11 to Island Road, were granted funding approval from the Berkshire Local Transport Body in November 2015. This followed the completion of the full business case which confirmed that the scheme represents ‘very good’ value for money, in accordance with Department for Transport guidance.
Future phases of the South MRT scheme (Phases 3 & 4) have been included in the LEP’s bid to Government for Growth Deal 3, with an announcement on funding anticipated this month (December 2016). These phases include provision of an inbound bus lane between the A33 junctions with Longwater Avenue and Island Road, and further outbound bus lanes between the A33 junctions with Rose Kiln Lane and Lindisfarne Way (Kennet Island).