Updated Plans Submitted For New Bus, Pedestrian and Cycle Route for East Reading

UPDATED plans to build a dedicated new bus, pedestrian and cycle route between East Reading and the Town Centre are available to view from today (Friday May 4th).

Known as the East Reading Mass Rapid Transit, the original planning application was submitted in July last year. The planning application has now been updated following extensive consultation with statutory consultees and feedback received through the statutory planning process.

As a result of changes made the updated scheme now results in a net increase in biodiversity, continues to provide a net increase in flood storage capacity, and achieves the greater retention of trees.

The proposed East Reading MRT provides a direct new public transport, walk and cycle link between Reading Town Centre and Thames Valley Business Park, the Thames Valley Park and Ride due to commence construction shortly, and a network of other park and ride sites in Wokingham. It would be open to public buses, pedestrians and cyclists only. Private vehicles and taxis would not be permitted to use the route. Instead it will help to ease forecast congestion 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.

The updated planning application documents will be available to view online via the Council’s website planning portal http://planning.reading.gov.uk today (Friday May 4th). The application number is 171108. The Local Planning Authority will consider all written representations received regarding the revised scheme up until Friday 18th May.

The main amendments to the planning application are:

·         Viaduct to narrow by one metre in a localised area to the East of the Kennetmouth (i.e. at the narrowest point on the riverbank) to reduce the visual impact of the scheme.

·         Minor realignment of the route to the South of the Tesco superstore car park west of the Kennetmouth, reducing land-take on the car park and The Coal woodland.

·         Removal of some originally-proposed replacement car parking within the Tesco superstore car park, significantly reducing the impact on The Coal woodland. An additional 17 trees and 8 tree groups will be retained.  The amended scheme includes the planting of 77 new trees, plus 4 further trees off-site (see notes below).

·         Two-column supporting design of the viaduct now altered to single ‘flared’ column to further reduce the visual impact of the scheme.

·         Lighting columns along the viaduct in original proposal to be replaced with low-level parapet lighting.

·         Provision of three new short-stay visitor mooring platforms on the River Thames (North Bank, east of the Kennetmouth), with associated riverbank planting, resulting in a net increase in biodiversity as a result of the scheme.

·         Landscaping amendments to include provision of wetland/marsh area under the viaduct, retention of the large Willow tree to the East of Kennetmouth, and other off-side mitigating environmental improvements resulting in new habitats and a biodiversity net gain.

·         Amended locations for compensatory flood storage (ground lowering), resulting in a net increase in flood storage capacity as a result of the scheme.

Tony Page, Reading Borough Council’s Lead Member for Strategic Environment, Planning and Transport, said: “The planning application for a dedicated new bus, pedestrian and cycle only route has been updated following feedback received during the statutory consultation period. As a result, the proposed scheme now sees a greater retention of trees, a net increase in biodiversity and continues to provide a net an increase in flood storage capacity.

“The revised planning application will be available for viewing on the Council’s website from today (May 4th). All comments will be considered up until Friday May 18th, with the Planning Committee scheduled to consider the application at the end of this month.

“I would stress once again 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. Private vehicles would not be permitted to use the route.

“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. With the creation of new park and ride sites, and the possible expansion of existing ones, it is forecast that many thousands of car commuter journeys will switch to public transport, thereby reducing forecast congestion and improving forecast air quality in east Reading.”

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 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.

It will also provide capacity for future demand to help manage the significant levels of growth planned within Wokingham Borough and Reading town centre. It is also a vital first element to facilitate a step change in public transport provision on the Reading – Wokingham – Bracknell growth corridor.

If approved, the current schedule is for work to begin in Spring 2019 and for the new route to open in 2020/21.

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.

Ends

Notes to Editors

The amended scheme now results in the total loss of 58 tree features (36 individual trees and 22 tree groups) – the vast majority trees in tree groups that will need to be removed are low quality, low life expectancy and / or, young small trees.  The removal of invasive non-native species, selection tree management and native understorey planting will improve the quality/growth of the existing (and remaining) woodland.  77 new trees, plus 4 trees off-site will be planted. This compares to the previous figure of a loss of 83 tree features (53 individual trees and 30 tree groups).

Victoria Nickless

For media enquiries about this release email victoria.nickless@reading.gov.uk or call 0118 937 3957