READING Borough Council will submit a new and revised planning application this autumn to build a dedicated new bus, pedestrian and cycle route between East Reading and the Town Centre.
Following the decision of Wokingham Borough Council’s Planning Committee last month to refuse permission for the planned East Reading Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) route, council officers are now working on a new planning application. A key part of that process will be addressing the main concerns raised by Wokingham councillors.
It is expected that the new planning application will be submitted this autumn. It will then be considered by both Wokingham and Reading Planning Committees in spring next year. A 21-day public consultation period will also take place as part of the usual planning application process.
Councillor Tony Page, Reading Borough Council’s Lead Member for Strategic Environment, Planning and Transport, said:
“Wokingham’s decision last month does not change the fact that this 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 which is already at capacity due to the huge demands on it. 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.
“Council officers are now working on a new planning application which will take into account comments at Wokingham’s planning committee. This will see further amendments to the original scheme after it was updated earlier this year to include a net increase in biodiversity, a net increase in flood storage capacity and the greater retention of trees. At this stage the new application is expected to be submitted in the autumn, with another period of public consultation, before it goes before both Wokingham’s and Reading’s Planning Committees in the spring.”
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. This 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 ease forecast congestion along London Road and Cemetery Junction by providing 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.
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.