A PLANNING application to build a dedicated new bus, pedestrian and cycle route between East Reading and the Town Centre will be submitted today (July 4).
Known as the East Reading Mass Rapid Transit (MRT), the new route would provide a direct new link between Reading Town Centre and Thames Valley Business Park, and the proposed 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 capacity for future demand.
The Planning Application will be considered later this year. If approved, the current schedule is for work to begin in 2019 and for it to open in 2021/22.
As part of the Planning Application process, the Council is hosting two public exhibitions of the plans. These will take place at:
- Wokingham Waterside Centre, Monday 10 July 2017, 2pm – 7pm
- Reading Town Hall, Thursday 13 July 2017, 2pm – 7pm
The sustainable transport route for East Reading would run parallel to the Great Western mainline, connecting to Napier Road and linking with the Napier Road underpass which Reading Borough Council opened last year. The route would be extended near Tesco’s and on to the Kennetmouth, where a new single lane bridge would be constructed next to the existing railway bridge over the river. This would then link with the proposed 277 space Thames Valley Park and Ride site in Wokingham, and Thames Valley Business Park.
Tony Page, Reading Borough Council’s Lead Member for Strategic Environment, Planning and Transport, said:
“The scheme is a vital first element of developing a public transport corridor between Reading, Wokingham and Bracknell, and would link to the preferred location for the Third Thames Crossing. It is our intention that any Third Thames Bridge will include dedicated public transport provision to link to park and ride sites north and south of the river.
“Let me stress that the proposed new bridge over Kennetmouth, which is part of the East Reading MRT, is intended for public transport, cyclist and pedestrian use only.
“The actual section of the bridge over Kennetmouth will be narrowed to a single lane, which will facilitate shuttle working over the bridge and will ensure that it cannot be converted into a conventional road bridge without effectively completely rebuilding the bridge. This single lane design will obviously result in a narrower bridge, impacting less on the local environment and ensuring the listed Horseshoe Bridge is retained, besides reinforcing our commitment to public transport links.
“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. It is forecast that many thousands of car commuter journeys will switch to public transport, thereby reducing congestion and improving air quality in east Reading.
“The East Reading MRT proposal will help to manage and accommodate the very substantial growth planned over the next 20 years in the Wokingham area, and reduce the impact of this growth on residents in Reading.
“This is an example of the local authority successfully attracting external funding for a scheme to help alleviate the congestion and air quality issues that we know that exist in the east of the borough. I hope as many people as possible make some time to drop into the exhibitions and see the plans for themselves, and so that they are properly informed about the benefits.”
An initial public consultation exercise which helped to inform the scheme took place in July last year. As part of the usual planning process, the Local Planning Authority will consider all written representations received up until the time at which the application is reported to the Council’s Planning Applications Committee, currently expected to be in the autumn.
The full planning application will be available to view online via the Council’s planning portal (http://planning.reading.gov.uk) once all documentation has been verified by the planning department. As it is a large planning application, this process is expected to take a number of days.
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. That is external funding the Council has successfully bid for and which cannot be used to fund other Council services.