WORK to further speed up bus journey times by building a dedicated bus lane through two key stretches of the busy A33 is now complete.
The latest phase of the South Reading Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) scheme has seen the widening of the A33 southbound approach to the Rose Kiln Lane junction to introduce a new bus lane, and the widening of the A33 north from the Imperial Way roundabout to South Oak Way. Two lanes of traffic have been maintained throughout, meaning quicker journey times for bus passengers and all other road users.
Some delays were experienced due to unforeseen issues with utilities, but these were overcome to ensure the A33 is fully operational in time for the busy Christmas shopping period in Reading.
The scheme involved making use of the adjacent Kennet Meadows for access to the base of the highway and bridge supports, and to remove a redundant and dangerous wire fence. This has now been completed and the meadow fully restored to its essential role as a working water meadow, protecting the centre of Reading from flooding.
Tony Page, Reading Borough Council’s Lead Councillor for Strategic Environment, Planning and Transport, said:
“We know that road space in Reading is already at capacity. Major housing developments planned for the south of Reading will bring even more commuter traffic into the town. Offering people realistic, easy and sustainable travel choices is the only option to manage levels of congestion and improve air quality. It is also the only way the Council can achieve making Reading a net zero carbon town by 2030, as we have committed to.
“This is now the 4th phase of a series of bus corridor improvements to make our bus services even more reliable and to speed up journey times for all road users on the A33.
“This is about speeding up bus journey times between central Reading and residential and employment areas to the south, in order to make choosing the bus an even more attractive option for people. It is also important to note the new bus lane is not at the expense of a lane of traffic, it is in addition to the two existing lanes, meaning no loss of capacity for other road users.”
Work on this element of the A33 scheme was delayed by the discovery of utility communications cables which were not correctly positioned where they crossed a drainage bridge. Works on the bridge could not take place until the cables had been relocated by the utility companies. An additional problem occurred with water main diversion works. Despite this, bus lane works were confined to off peak times and delays for traffic have been effectively managed.
The Council hopes the quicker journey times will encourage even more people to use the Mereoak Park and Ride bus as a quick and easy alternative to the car. Standard day return including parking is just £4.50, with multi ride smartcards bringing the daily cost down to £3.28 per day, or an off peak car load for £6 Mon – Fri, £5 at weekends.
The success of the Reading Borough Council Greenwave rapid transit bus services is shown by the carriage of 1.2 million passengers in the current year, 4 times the number in 2010. This is an important tool in tackling climate change in Reading and in recognition that the Council has committed to a net zero carbon town by 2030.
Notes to Editor:
Funding for the South 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. The money is external funding the Council has successfully bid for and which cannot be used to fund other day to day Council services. Further phases of the scheme are being planned to help manage the forecast future demand on this corridor, with delivery subject to the Council again securing external funding.
The first section of the A33 bus lane – southbound between the Imperial Way (Tesco) roundabout and M4 Junction 11 – opened in December 2016. Phase 2 – running between Kennet Island and Imperial Way – opened in December 2017. Phase 3 was constructed in 2018 and focused on the town centre, with the extension of the inbound bus lane on Bridge Street, and construction of an ‘outbound’ bus lane on London Street benefitting many bus services to South Reading including the University.